Photographs by Gillian Laub

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For the past four years, photographer Gillian Laub has worked in Israel and Palestine, producing portraits of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Nablus and other locations in the region. This volume contains 50 of her portraits of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, displaced Lebanese families and Palestinians--each personally affected by the geopolitical context in which they live, and each unveiling one more essential element in the puzzle of peace for the Middle East. In some of Laub's photographs, the traces of conflict are immediately observable--teenage boys without limbs; a young woman enveloped in scar tissue and a burn-recovery suit. Others are seemingly free from the disfigurements of violence. Yet in the interviews that accompany each portrait, a common thread of survival is revealed. Resilience, pride, defiance, vulnerability--and most astonishing of all, optimism--emerge from one statement to the next. Two essays, one by the Palestinian-Israeli civil rights lawyer Raef Zreik, and one by the distinguished Israeli author Ariella Azoulay, underline the complexity of the work and the dialogue that Laub intends it to spark.

“The bravery of the photos in this series is that they show what even funerals do not show: the true horror of war and terrorism. They do so in a way that does not seek to turn the young people portrayed into types or leech them of their beliefs or prejudices -- of their human specificity, in other words. To consider them is to be reminded not just of human cruelty and human stupidity but also of human tenacity. I can't go on, I'll go on. The words are Samuel Beckett's, but the wisdom they reflect is the common wisdom of everyone portrayed here, whatever else divides them.” –David Rieff, The New York Times