Tanya Habjouqa is a photojournalist, artist, educator and member of NOOR Images photo agency. She is trained in anthropology and journalism (MA: Global Media, SOAS, London). Tanya’s approach to visual storytelling fuses a mordant sense of irony with unstinting, forensic interrogations of the implications of geopolitical conflict on human lives. Largely focusing on the Middle East, Tanya’s work on Israel-Palestine in particular has been cited as a powerful investigation of the cross-currents of religion, politics, economics, and cultural production. Her project Occupied Pleasures received critical acclaim from Time Magazine and Smithsonian and the project won a World Press Photo award. A leading advocate for new methods in photojournalism and documentary practice, Tanya is the co-founder of the Middle East visual storyteller organization Ruwa, and is a mentor in the Arab Photography Documentary Program, providing marginalized narratives and narrative-creators with the space and skills to tell their stories.
The Sacred Space Oddity is an elegiac meditation on the interaction of the physical and psychological space encompassed in the loaded, often effacing, phrase “Holy Land”. Media representations of Israel-Palestine so frequently reduce narrative rather than expanding it. To successfully document life in Israel Palestine requires a powerful and uncomfortable capacity for empathy, an ability to accept the existence of two contradictory and often hostile realities at once. I take a perspective closer to the ground- exploring the confidential, intimate urges, hopes, fears, and choices that weave the living tapestry on which the conflict is played out.
Building on the approaches I have used in my ground breaking Occupied Pleasures project, Sacred Space Oddity engages a diverse cast of characters, modulating between realist and surrealist aesthetics deployed against the backdrop of quotidian events in the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. I seek to challenge the simplifying mythologies that emerge in regions of conflict, both about “the other side” and which populations tell themselves about who they are and who they seek to be.
The characters featured in my images are metaphorical co-authors of this project; their understandings of the land will be embedded within the imagery in a participatory excavation of their experience and socio-political imaginaries. The result, I hope, will be an audio-visual project with immersive dimensions, offering people a multitude of ways to learn and unlearn the material and psychic space that defines the so-called “Holy Land”.
In development with award-winning photo book Dutch designer Teun van der Heijden, publishing date 2022, and exhibited in Breda Festival’s 2020 edition. The project was funded by a grant from the Magnum Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, with partnership at the The Brown Institute for Media Innovation.