By this point, so many photojournalists have made the trek to the West Bank and Gaza Strip that the Plight of the Palestinians has become a predictable subgenre, complete with its own lame clichés: young men throwing rocks, protesters waving flags and screaming, children walking through rubble, checkpoints, rocket explosions, Israeli Defense Forces storm troopers busting down doors, and, of course, the wall. It’s one of those instances of something being so well documented that one has to question whether we have become desensitized to the severity of the situation due to oversaturation.
Linda Forsell’s new book, Life’s a Blast, avoids these well-worn tropes. The 101 impeccably composed, square-format photos contained within were taken on a series of trips between 2008 and 2010, and somehow Linda found a different, more human way of telling this familiar story. Palestinians and Israelis aren’t reduced to anonymous victims of history or heavily armed occupiers. Instead, the stunningly ordinary activities of daily life are used as a prism to reflect the crushing weight of what appears to be a conflict that will never end. Depictions of violence are subtle, which makes them all the more terrifying—a store mannequin with its jaw blown off; a little boy using a crayon to draw a house, stick figures, and a tank.
The photos are interspersed with vignettes by Linda that draw on years of conversations with Palestinians and Israelis and underscore the poisonous atmosphere created by decades of armed conflict. Linda writes about a street in Hebron where settlers are notorious for standing on the roofs and peeing on Palestinians passing underneath. “When I go to my school, I sit between two settlers,” a Palestinian man tells her in another account. “Both of them carry machine guns. We always offer each other tea if we have it, but none of us accept.”
You could say that Life’s a Blast is definitive—a good argument for why photographers who cover the conflict need to put down the camera for a little while and reflect on how they could be telling this story in more impactful ways. For now, we’ll just let them take a cue from Linda with this small selection of what you can find inside.