For forty years, Wendy Ewald has travelled the world working with local communities, especially children. In addition to making her own photographs, she developed a method of handing out simple cameras and encouraging people – ordinarily the ‘subjects’ of a professional photographer – to author their own images of themselves and their communities. Because the photographers are trusted observers, innocent of the techniques (and wiles) of professionals, the results have the uncanny feel of unadorned truth.
In This Is Where I Live, Ewald redefines the scope of books about Israel and the West Bank. Ewald portrays an entire region through its discreet parts. Her subjects are contested sites where many communities coexist: Jewish, Christian, Gypsy and Druze. Ewald worked with fourteen different communities – in neighbourhoods, villages and schools – using a version of the prismatic approach she’s refined over many years. She encouraged a wide range of people – school children, elderly women and hi-tech workers – to take pictures and document their lives from their own perspective.
Cameras were offered to children uprooted by settlements in Hebron, the West Bank; to young girls at Tzahali military academy; to stall owners at The Shuk, Jerusalem’s lively marketplace; and to Bedouin students at a school in the Negev Desert. The collected images, accompanied by interviews and statements by the photographers, evoke the vitality of the region's cultural landscape, including small minorities such as the Gypsies (who are often swept under the umbrella of Arab identity) – not to mention the myriad identities within majority groups, illuminating the manifold meaning of ‘Jewish identity’.
American photographer Wendy Ewald began her work in 1969, when she taught photography to Innu and Mi'kmaq Native-American children in Canada. She went on to work in Kentucky and she published her first book, Portraits and Dreams in 1985. Her work has been shown in the 1997 Whitney Biennial and in the 2013 Melbourne Festival. In 2001 she published a book about her teaching, I Wanna Take Me a Picture: Teaching Photography and Writing to Children as well as a children’s book, The Best Part of Me. A retrospective of Ewald's work, Secret Games, was published by Scalo and shown at museums across the US and Europe from 2000-2006; it has also been exhibited at the ICP in New York, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Nederlands Foto Institute in Rotterdam. In 2007 ArtAngel commissioned Ewald to create an installation in Margate, England, accompanied by a book, Towards a Promised Land.