I've been back home in Los Angeles for just over a day. While I fight the effects of jetlag and travel fatigue, I thought I'd take the opportunity to show you how some of the final few days were spent on the trip. It was so busy that I didn't have time to keep the blog updated.
Thanks once again to the Spafford Children's Center and its wonderful staff, I was given time to revisit the group of children that made many of the drawings that I based photographs on. I showed them rough printouts of the resulting shots to get their feedback and reactions.
Comments were overwhelmingly positive, with children saying that the photos showed exactly how they felt. There were also some very good critiques - one from a boy that asked why was I showing toys instead of real people. He seemed to think that I was trivializing their situation, but he also seemed satisfied with my defense of the work as being illustrative and meant to connect more with concepts than specific people. One of the other critiques I got was for not including Barbie in any of the shots.
Joking aside, the Barbie comment was valid, but for a reason. Even when girls drew pictures of soldiers and strife, it featured boys in danger or boys being shot. Even still, I felt that girls were being under represented in the photographs. For the last toy shot, I once again crossed the Kalandia Checkpoint into the West Bank and photographed near the wall.
Accompanied by former Spafford students Montaser (seen above) and Yousef, I focused on a little Playmobil girl and a plastic Palestinian flag. While the resulting shot doesn't correspond directly to a single drawing, it felt right to take a little artistic license and contrast a girl's hope for the future with the current reality.
For the remaining days afterward, I spent time getting a number of shots for the documentary that I felt were missing. This included a toy shop in West Jerusalem where I had to go to get figures to represent the children and footage of the ever-present soldiers that patrol the Arab Quarter in the Old City.