Images by Iris Hassid
A Place of Our Own
A Place of Our Own’ (2014-2020) depicts the everyday lives of Samar (recent graduate of film and television) from Nazareth, her cousin Saja (studying psychology) also from Nazareth, Majdoleen (studying architecture) from Kafr Kanna, and Aya (studying social work and gender studies) from Kafr Qara. I followed them from the time they were students at the University of Tel Aviv until their graduation and after. They were between 19 and 24 years old when I met them. We would meet every few months, usually following lengthy attempts by me to coordinate a meeting, as their schedules, between studies, work, and pleasure, were very tight, and they weren’t always in the mood to be photographed. I had a general idea of where the location would be, they would bring a few sets of clothes, and we would start. Sometimes I would photograph them alone, sometimes in pairs and groups. Samar was my guide into their lives. She and I met regularly in a busy café in Tel Aviv. I showed her the pictures that we had taken, and we discussed what we thought was still missing. We argued and negotiated about the meaning of the images and the project as a whole, and about which images were absolutely out of the question. I had many enjoyable conversations with Majdoleen as well. She told me about her life and shared what was on her mind. We took photographs in between. I did this too with Aya and Saja, but not as often as they left Tel Aviv a few years after the project had begun. These meetings and photo sessions were full of humour and discussion. I gained their trust as we learned more about each other. Bit by bit I witnessed more intimate parts of their lives and I also met their families back home.
Through their stories I explored their lives, and bits of our conversations stayed with me for a very long time. Through their posts and stories on Instagram and Facebook, I built an archive of their own images of their lives, and got ideas about what and where to photograph. The mutual trust helped us through difficult times: the war in Gaza, the bitter and hateful election campaign in 2015, and the 2018 ‘Jewish Nation State’ law – those were and still are dark moments for all of us.
I watched them grow as they became young adults dealing with issues of career, family, boyfriends, clothes, music, and hanging around. I also show what one usually doesn’t see: the freedom and joy in their daily lives. Although the reality and complexity of this country intrudes in their lives continuously, at the same time it is bonding them even more closely; friends become family. This project does not claim to faithfully document the lives of these women, nor does it pretend to show ‘true’ moments. It should be seen as a collaboration between them and me; it shows situations and portraits which are true to their lives, and which we agreed on to portray.
This long and intimate collaboration made me question the place I live in, the historical narrative, the identity and symbols we inherited on both sides. It has revealed a complex and new reality. I often think about their futures and about the future of this country.
I am forever grateful to these young trailblazing women for letting me enter into their lives, and for entering my heart.