Actually, I am someone
© Aurélia Berthe


Actually, I am someone (2008)

These portraits of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation were taken throughout the West Bank in July 2008. Offering up close and personal images of Palestinians, this series provides an intimate view of individuals that most people never have the chance to see or hear about. Not your news-breaking minority of fundamentalists, hijackers, hostage-taking, suicide bombing, aggressors*. Instead, the majority of the Palestinian population, ordinary people who want to be able to live normal lives.

Central to these portraits is the Palestinian scarf (hatta or kiffeyeh), a cultural tradition that has become an emblem of identity and resistance for a suppressed people. The portraits are arranged in the style of passport photos, simple black and white headshots, which relate directly to the identification of the individual. Many Palestinians struggle with the issue of identity. What do you identify yourself as when your homeland is not recognized and in the opinion of some, never even existed? The passport photo was also chosen to acknowledge that many Palestinians living in refugee camps do not have passports, do not have identification papers at all. They are citizens of nowhere.

Finally there are the walls. To contrast the cement apartheid walls constructed by the Israelis, these walls of portraits personify walls of hope that things will change in the region, walls of dreams for an ordinary life, walls of support from the outside rather than walls that restrict to the inside, walls that bridge people together instead of cutting them apart, walls that cannot be torn down by bulldozers because they are bonded by human spirit.

Actually, I am someone consists of 60 portraits to represent 60 years of occupation. 48 portraits are projected 12 are in print. The number 48 represents the year 1948, Al Nakba (cataclysm), that year saw the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.

*Description borrowed from Time Suspended, a book by Herman Asselberghs, Els Opsomer and Pieter Van Bogaert


Concept: Tarek HalabyPhotography: Auréliea BertheProduction: wpZimmerCo-production: BOZAR (Brussels), Les Halles (Brussels), Tanzhaus NRW (Dusseldorf)


Interview: The Bulletin