Untitled (Gaza, 1999-2006)/The city

The city

Since my arrival in France at the end of 1994, each trip back to Gaza raised a feeling of sadness and anguish in me, especially during the first days, as I noticed how much the situation had deteriorated during my absence. I felt frustrated and torn apart between my desire to stay and the wish to go away. Apart from the pleasure of being with my family and friends again or seeing the sea, there wasn't much to do in Gaza. Work had become scarce because of the difficulty to move around owing to the occupation. And Gaza is a city where leisure spaces (cinemas, theatres, exhibition centres...) have been destroyed very early and are almost non existing now. Sometimes, I left in the morning with my camera in my bag with the intention of taking a few pictures in the city. But often, one or two hours later, I came back home without having used my camera out of shyness, discretion or lack of motivation.

Making pictures of Gaza has always meant a lot for me. This helps me to take stock of my daily life in the same way as other people keep a diary or, perhaps even, unconsciously, to resist the continuous wearing away of the city by making a sort of inventory during each of my trip. The fact that I was born in Gaza, certainly nourishes my fascination for this place. But there are other reasons that I cannot explain and that could not be explained by the aesthetical criteria used to describe a city. Gaza is not "a beautiful city". It is the place where, because of its political, demographic (the largest population density in the world) situation and its physical, urban or social constitution, it is difficult, not to say impossible, to be alone or to have a minimum of privacy. It's a city where you are constantly dogged by the glaze of other people, the subject of their curiosity... It is also a place where you can live in a completely improvised manner, because there is no other way - and where you may be confronted to the most unexpected situations...

Taysir Batniji