I have just returned from Alan’s flat where I retrieved a slightly battered document box. It instantly triggered memories of the years that Alan and I, as his curator, spent together touring his Homeland Lost exhibition across the Middle East and Europe. The box contains contact sheets from the project organised by village into the regions in Mandatory Palestine – portraits of Palestinian refugees filed alongside their villages of origin in what is today Israel.
I was reminded of the considerable scale of the project – Alan photographed over 100 Palestinian refugees and over 50 former Palestinian villages in Israel. I fell in love once again with the intimate, profoundly moving portraits of people in exile, unable to return to their homes, the majority stateless and indefinitely marooned in refugee camps.
With the escalation of the current conflict between Gaza and Israel, the Gignouxphotos team decided to revisit Homeland Lost, two decades after Alan took the first portrait.
The Nakba (translated as “Disaster”) is the name Palestinians give to the displacement and dispossession of their people during the 1948 war and is the cause of the violence being enacted by both sides on each other today. For me, the creative power of Homeland Lost lies in the elegant simplicity of pairing each person photographed with an image of the homes or villages that they have lost and to which they cannot return. With this gesture, Alan has gone straight to the heart of the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
It is effortless to reunite person with place in the gallery space, but it took Alan two years of travelling around the Middle East and within Israel to make the portraits and the corresponding landscapes. Tragically, twenty years on, the chance of physically reuniting the refugees with their former homes – or of finding a resolution to the conflict – looks no less remote than it did then.
Then there is the power of the portraits themselves; Alan gives faces and names to the Palestinian victims of this ongoing war. He lifts them out of the obscurity of political debate, news reporting, and the tides of history. They are real. They are people like us. They miss their former lives and their homes and communities.
Although Homeland Lost has been extensively exhibited, the work has never been incorporated into a photobook. The team at Gignouxphotos have decided that now is the time to publish this body of work and we will begin on the book in the New Year.
Support MAP with our Special Edition Prints
We are offering for sale an open edition 10 x 10 inches pair of prints featuring a portrait and a corresponding landscape from Homeland Lost. Proceeds will go to MAP, Medical Aid for Palestinians, to help them in their efforts to alleviate the suffering of civilians in Gaza. Please visit the Gignouxphotos print sales page for further information.