Basel Al Yazouri: The Prodigy Photographer from Gaza

Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

Last summer, during Israel’s 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip, Basel Al Yazouri took hold of his camera and documented his people’s mourning and perseverance.

The Gaza-born Al Yazouri (the grandchild of refugees from Beit Daras, a village ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces in 1948) gathered 15 out of the hundreds of photographs and submitted them to the renowned Magnum Foundation in New York for their Human Rights fellowship. Al Yazouri bested hundreds of applicants to become the youngest and first Palestinian recipient of the fellowship.

Basel Yazouri in the Al Tuffah neighbourhood, Gaza Strip, February 9, 2015. Photo Credit: ActiveStills
Basel Yazouri in the Al Tuffah neighbourhood, Gaza Strip, February 9, 2015. Photo Credit: ActiveStills

Although he picked up a camera only a few years ago, he’s quickly made a name for himself.

In 2013, he became the youngest member of the popular documentary photography website ActiveStills, founded by Israeli and international photographers “in solidarity with the Palestinian people.” Just 16-years-old, Al Yazouri’s photographs of restless Palestinian teenage boys seeking to escape Gaza’s stifling environment via surfing, rap concerts, parkour. et cetera . . . , went viral over the web.

We feature some of the extraordinary images of the 19-year-old Al Yazouri – a prodigy photographer.

Interspersed our snippets on photography in Palestine from our very own Jerusalem Quarterly.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.49.09 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.50.59 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.52.03 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.52.22 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.53.26 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.52.52 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.54.03 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.56.07 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

[Khalil] Raad’s work during the Mandate was more reflective of public sensitivities to the presence of an occupation army. Except for the initial phase of the British military government period (1918-1920) which showed the triumphal entry of General Allenby and allied soldiers to Jerusalem, the ’twenties and ’thirties yielded numerous photographs of curfews, police action against demonstrations, frisking of civilians by Indian and British soldiers, and the presence of military vehicles and armed soldiers in the streets.

The War Photography of Khalil Raad: Ottoman Modernity and the Biblical Gaze by Salim Tamari – Jerusalem Quarterly

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.57.22 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.58.13 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.59.19 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.12.22 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.13.25 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.14.03 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.18.24 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

Karimeh Abbud, an early Palestinian woman photographer, practiced her craft from the 1920s on. Her portrait of Dmitri and his mother taken in 1926 . . . The mother is seated in a pose that shows her dignified, yet at ease. The son, sitting on the edge of his mother’s chair, appears completely relaxed and smiling. There is an air of spontaneity about this picture. Both mother and son appear to be themselves and setting the pose seems to have been quick and unplanned. Almost without exception, Karimeh Abbud’s photographs share this sense of spontaneity.

Early Local Photography in Palestine: The Legacy of Karimeh Abbud by Issam Nassar – Jerusalem Quarterly

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.18.06 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.17.52 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.17.24 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.17.03 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.16.35 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.21.09 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.16.10 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.15.20 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.19.05 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

A double-page spread of several photos in the 7 June, 1948 issue [of Life] starts on the upper left with Arab Legion trucks advancing along a narrow Jerusalem Old City street. The end frame in lower right shows a wounded Arab Legionnaire being carried away by volunteers. In between are photographs depicting Arab troops crouched with guns and sandbags along the top of an Old City wall, Palestinian civilians crowding together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to hear battle bulletins, and explosions around Jewish-held buildings seen from a distance. This simple version of a photo essay presents a narrative of the fight to hold Jerusalem, shot from the Palestinian side.

Photographic Style and the Depiction of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict since 1948 by Michelle L. Woodward – Jerusalem Quarterly 

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.23.02 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.23.23 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.24.32 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.25.07 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

The procession of portraits in Jawhariyyeh’s photographic albums invites the viewer to enter an ambulatory of Palestinian history rooted in the late Ottoman Empire.  They are interspersed between cartes de visite of civilian and local notables, clerics, and officials such as the suave Tawfiq Bey, with his hand on cane; Rashid Bey, whose front head shot looks straight into the camera; and a soft vignette of the twelfth mutassarif of Jerusalem, ‘Ali Akram Bey.

Portrait Paths: Studio Photography in Ottoman Palestine
by Stephen Sheehi – Jerusalem Quarterly

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.25.28 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.31.34 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.30.55 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.30.38 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.30.06 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

A minority of visitors indulged in a form of self-exhibitionism that had both playful and deceitful dimensions. They used the space created before the lens in the portrait studios to shed western attire and pose adventuresomely for the camera clad in exotic “Orientalist” costumes. These photographic records of cultural cross-dressing or make-believe were evocative of a romanticized experience of the Middle East that was constructed more from the realm of European travel literature, folk tales, fiction, and scripture readings than from the increasingly modern environment outside the studio doors.

The American Colony Photography Department: Western Consumption and “Insider” Commercial Photography by Barbara Bair – Jerusalem Quarterly

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.28.19 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.27.42 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.27.06 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.26.23 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.32.25 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

Yazouri is now based in New York attending his fellowship:

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.55.19 PM
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
nyc1
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri
nyc2
Photo Credit: Basel Al Yazouri

You may follow Yazouri’s work on his Flickr account.

By Khelil Bouarrouj.

Research and scholarship requires investment. Generous contributions from people like you allow us to provide invaluable resources as a public good. Make a tax-deductible donation today!
DonateNow