Unboxing THEM

they take our land
they take our money

we pay them taxes
they let our garbage rot

they hammer your head
they wrap you in the flag

they dance, and shout
messiah messiah messiah

THEM is a phenomenal little book from Rosalind Fox Solomon that came about following her participation in the This Place project.

THIS PLACE explores the complexity of Israel and the West Bank, as place and metaphor, through the eyes of twelve internationally acclaimed photographers.

This Place includes photographs from Frédéric Brenner, Wendy Ewald, Martin Kollar, Josef Koudelka, Jungjin Lee, Gilles Peress, Fazal Sheikh, Stephen Shore, Rosalind Fox Solomon, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall and Nick Waplington, and the last paragraph of the acknowledgements page at the end of THEM was the first I heard of it.

Go check out the website, there’s some good stuff there.

I became aware of Ms. Fox Solomon from an interview on B, and quickly snatched up her most recent two books from Mack. With the intersection of text and photographs, I knew they would be useful to examine as part of the thinking around my own book, and the little bit of photography I saw had me very interested. I had no idea how much I would enjoy them.

THEM contains a bunch of pictures, mostly of sad or tired-looking Israelis, with a few smiling Palestinians and a couple of hijabis in there for some color, along with snippets of text overheard while riding around on busses. The pictures are good, and give a portrait of the disparity and depression in Israel and the West Bank, but the text makes it.

On one page, this picture gives way to two pages with the text from the top of this post; a picture of a mother and son looking tenderly and complacently at one another on one page and the second bit of text (below the video) greets you.

THEM is in no way a cheerful book, nor is it an indictment of any thing: it’s not propaganda for either side. What it is, what it seems to me, anyway, is an honest look at the people, what they get into, what their faces and postures reveal about their internal realities. I wonder if Ms. Fox Solomon is a bit of a pessimist about people, or if her own internal reality is a bit depressive or disappointed or dissatisfied.

From B’s interview:

Photography as such does not interest me. It is only a tool as the paintbrush is the painter’s tool. I am interested in the layers within us as individuals related to our time.

What interests me are the dichotomies and the metaphors. Push–pull. Positive-negative.

That pretty much captures THEM (and Got to Go, about which I’ll share thoughts tomorrow, God willing).  Go pick up a copy. If you’re in the US, you can get one signed for pretty cheap direct from the publisher, otherwise pick up the unsigned copy.

The concept is excellent, the content outstanding, and the design well up to Mack standards.

Concept
Content
Design

Overall, I give it a solid 4.666666667… Let’s round it up to 4.7.

Solomon, Rosalind. Them. London: Mack, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *