The Jewish Telegraph

Judah’s pictures find a new home at Jewish Museum

A picture is worth a thousand words, but in the case of Judah Passow, a thousand pictures tell one story — a personal journey through the last three decades of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Judah, a winner of four World Press Photo awards, produced Shattered Dreams (Halban Publishers, £25) in 2008 having charted the conflict since the early 1980s through the lens of his camera.

And he has also documented the lives of British Jews in a new exhibition entitled No Place Like Home.

The exhibition will run at the London Jewish Museum from February 1 until June 5. Born in Rehovot, Israel, Judah moved to America with his family as a boy.

Educated at Boston University in film-making, he graduated in 1971 and moved back to Israel to complete his mandatory military service. Following army service he began a career as a photographer with The Jerusalem Post where he stayed for six years before moving to London and taking a freelance job with The Observer.

“I came to the conclusion that I had to leave a small town newspaper if I wanted my work to develop,” he explained.

“I had to come to Europe and I came to London because it was the part of Europe where I would have the least language problems.” Judah spent nine years at The Observer before moving to The Sunday Telegraph for a decade.

But in parallel he cofounded a photographic agency called Network Photographers to manage his own work and that of several colleagues.

His work has been featured in leading publications across the globe and Judah lectures on the topic in British universities.

“I’ve committed myself to taking a certain kind of picture,” he said of his rise to the top.

“It is a picture that speaks with integrity and compassion. “I’ve never compromised on that. If you compromise on your principles, you start undermining your work.” For Judah, it is anemotional connection with the subject that makes a powerful image.

He explained: “It is my relationship to the moment that’s unfolding in front of me and the emotion that’s being expressed by the people I’m photographing.

“My ability to connect with the emotion determines how I see it and how I compose it. “The impact of the photograph is a presentation of my response to what is happening in front of me.”

Having covered the conflict in images for three decades, despite seeing “no substantive change”, Judah is hopeful that a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians is coming to the fore.

“We’re looking at a generation that is not interested in nationalist politics,” the 62-year old said.

“They have no interest in dying for a flag. When they reach political and professional maturity they will turn around and say let’s start doing things differently.

“They want to put an end to all this xenophobia; this cancer that eats away at thefabric of society.”

He highlighted the summer’s tent city social justice protests across Israel as an example of differing priorities for young people in the region.

“They are sick and tired of the violent society that they are being asked to inherit from their parents,” Judah said.

“This is a generation saying the most important thing is a roof over their heads, a secure job and affordable healthcare. “There is a resolution to the conflict. It might not be thisweek or next year, but it is going to reach a point where people turn to each other and saythis is pointless, it is not achieving anything.”

Much of the focus of Shattered Dreams is on the settlements that existed in Gaza — until former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew the IDF in 2005 — and Palestinian towns in the West Bank.

Judah explained: “Life in the West Bank was central to the unfolding narrative of the conflict.

“The images are generally about the friction that’s generated by the occupation and the impact it has on the every day lives of the Palestinians.”

Shattered Dreams might be Judah’s finest hour. But he is certainly not slowing down, even at 62.

He said: “I’ve produced this body of work that I spent 30 years working on. “It is one story that I can look back on and say I produced this substantive body of work about this single issue and that gives me an incredible amount of pride.”

His next project will be looking at the impact of the Arab Spring on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. And in the next few months he will be exhibiting his take on the life of Jews inBritain.

He spent 18 months travelling around the UK taking images on “what it means to be British and Jewish at the same time”. Judah added: “No Place Like Home is a visual conversation with the Jewish community. An opportunity to examine and reflect on what it means to be British and Jewish in the 21st century.”

The 98 images, which will become part of the Jewish Museum’s permanent photographic collection, explore issues surrounding themes of community, charity, social action, humour, faith and identity.

Interview by Alex Zatman
© Jewish Telegraph 2011