Text Removed from Photo Festival's Exhibit on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By: Daryl Lang Organizers of the Noorderlicht photo festival in the Netherlands have removed a text essay about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an upcoming photo exhibit, blaming pressure from the Associated Press, which supplied some of the pictures.

The text, written by British photojournalist Stuart Franklin, describes Palestinians as victims of disproportionate force by Israel. Franklin curated an exhibition of photojournalism by Palestinian photographers from the 2008-2009 war in Gaza. The exhibit is one of six in this year?s Noorderlicht International Photofestival, which starts Sept. 5.

An AP spokesperson says the agency agreed to provide photographs for a nonpolitical photo show but objected to the exhibit text, considering it unacceptable for the photos to be used in support of a political position.

?The understanding we had was very clear, and it did not involve ... using AP photos to bolster a highly charged political point of view,? says AP spokesperson Paul Colford. Colford says the festival organizers voluntarily withdrew Franklin?s text after a series of e-mail conversations with him and AP director of photography Santiago Lyon.

Franklin?s essay was to be published in the Noorderlicht festival catalogue. In its place, Noorderlicht says it will publish short statements signed by Franklin, festival director Ton Broekhuis and the festival board of directors addressing the removal of the essay.

Broekhuis calls it ?a maddening and frustrating conclusion,? and festival chairman Koen F. Schuiling says the AP ?has shown a lack of understanding of the essence of freedom of speech.?

Franklin writes that given the options, he preferred to say nothing and let the pictures talk. ?So having been offered, against all the principles of free speech that I cherish so much, two modes of capitulation: the replacement of my text with one not written by me, and the removal of my text, I choose the latter option,? he says in his statement about his essay.

Franklin, a longtime Magnum photographer and former president of the agency, has covered conflicts around the world and may be best known for his 1989 photo of the tank man in Beijing?s Tiananmen Square.

As guest curator for Noorderlicht, Franklin visited Gaza and spoke to Palestinian photographers who covered the war in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. Israel officially banned international journalists in Gaza, which increased the importance of coverage by local photographers.

For the exhibit, titled ?Point of No Return,? Franklin selected images from 11 photographers who shoot for four wire services: the AP, Agence France Presse, european pressphoto agency and Getty Images.

Based on his visit to Gaza, Franklin wrote a 700-word essay about the recent history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Festival director Broekhuis provided a copy of the final draft of Franklin?s unpublished essay, but asked PDN not to publish or quote directly from it. The AP confirmed it was the same text they reviewed.)

The essay depicts Palestinians as resilient victims of Israeli violence and disempowerment. Franklin acknowledges cruelty on both sides of the conflict, and cites specific instances of violence against both Israelis and Palestinians.

The essay does not mention the Associated Press or any other media organizations, nor does it name any photographers. Franklin refers to the photographers generally, noting that they are mostly married men who worried about their safety as they covered the conflict.

In his final paragraph, Franklin likens the Palestinians to other groups of people who have historically been oppressed ? including Jews ? and says the exhibit is not politically biased, but biased on the side of justice, human rights, and international law.

This is the 16th year for Noorderlicht, which is held in the city of Groningen. The theme of this year?s festival is ?Human Conditions.? In addition to Franklin, guest curators include Foto8 editor Lauren Heinz; Simon Njami, founder of Revue Noir director of the Bamako photography festival; freelance curator Marc Pr?st working with Agence VU'; and Bas Vroege, a photo instructor and director of exhibition creator Paradox, along with regular curator Wim Melis.


AP's statement regarding the Noorderlicht Photofestival follows.

Early this year, The Associated Press agreed to a request to display some of its images from Gaza at the Noorderlicht Photofestival, with the firm understanding that the photos would speak for themselves and would not be used to support a political point of view.

The AP is an independent global news organization whose photojournalism stands on its own merits. In early August, in an e-mail exchange with Photofestival representatives, the AP agreed to a brief text describing the origins of the photos and Stuart Franklin?s role in bringing them to the exhibition.

When Mr. Franklin later sought to include his own additional text, the AP explained that his political commentary was unacceptable under the clear agreement that had led to AP?s involvement in the exhibition ? namely, that the photos would not be presented in support of a political position.

Mr. Franklin voluntarily said he would withdraw his commentary.

Paul Colford
Director of Media Relations
The Associated Press


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here