Scott Caruth’s first photographic monologue Molatham is an Arabic verb which translates literally as ‘to cover ones face’, but is used vernacularly in Palestine to describe anybody resisting the Israeli occupation. In this context, the verb locates the pivotal role played by the medium of photography in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, whereby in order to resist it, Palestinians must remain anonymous.
Taking this as his starting point, Scott Caruth’s Molatham is the culmination of a six year endeavour to archive the social practice of studio portraiture photography in the West Bank. As instances where Palestinians have chosen to represent them selves through the medium of photography, the collaborative process of studio portraiture reinstates that political agency which is denied through the occupiers use of surveillance or the photojournalists ‘fetishised frame of destruction, violence or loss’.
Instigated in 2013, Molathamexplores the archives of two prominent photography studios in the West Bank – Studio Havana and Studio Chaplin in Ramallah. Developments within the photographic medium itself, from black and white hand tinted photographs to those utilising Photoshop in the present day can be traced chronologically. The book explores how the physical structures of the studios themselves have been subject to both restricted access and destruction. It then explores how these personal and relatively private photographic objects become centerpieces of the public gaze, widely circulated images that form a central node of Palestinian resistance, within political iconography and propaganda, before tracing their display and subsequent disintegration into the West Bank urban landscape.
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