Israeli riot police officers met resistance on Tuesday as they removed Jewish settlers from illegal residences in the West Bank city of Hebron. As one settler was carried off near the market, an officer rushed to pick up the man’s glasses from the ground. Photographer: Rina Castelnuovo for NY Times.
We’ve published a couple of Castelnuovo’s photos on Jewlicious previously. I am a big admirer of her work and am always searching for her name on photos in the NY Times Mid-East reports. Ha’aretz has published an article and interview with Castelnuovo that provides some background to her work and personal history. It turns out that her husband is Jim Hollander who is another fine photographer who covers the region. Rina is generous in flattering Jim for having taught her new ways of evaluating situations and capturing them on film. I guess it’s a little like taking steroids though, if you don’t have exceptional talent in the first place, they won’t make you the best at what you do…
More images and information on the next page:
From the Ha’aretz article:
For the past 25 years, Castelnuovo Hollander, aged 50-something, has been photographing our wars and other regions in crisis. During her impressive career she has shot dozens of cover stories for Time, Newsweek and People, and for the German magazine Stern. She documented the revolution in Romania in 1989, which ended with the execution of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, the humanitarian crisis of the Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, the two Lebanon wars and the two intifadas. Her photos have twice – in 1982 and 2006 – won her the prestigious prize of the Overseas Press Club of America. For the past 14 years, she has been The New York Times’ photographer in Israel.
Despite her senior status she has remained in the shadows. “It’s by choice,” she says, sipping a cup of tea. “I don’t like the exposure. I always turn down invitations to appear on television programs. My mother is always telling me: ‘All these years you’ve been working and taking pictures, and no one has ever heard of you here.’ But that’s the way I like it. I love the anonymity. Maybe today I am going public a little for my mother, so she will be able to show her friends in the coffee shop: ‘Look, this is my daughter.'”
Works by Castelnuovo Hollander are now on display through January 12 in an annual photography exhibition called “Edut mekomit” (“Local Testimony”) in Dizengoff Center (Building A, 3rd floor) in Tel Aviv, in conjunction with World Press Photo.
Soldiers returning from Lebanon. Rina Castelnuovo.
At the age of 26, having completed her studies, Castelnuovo Hollander returned to Israel after being promised a job in the local AP bureau. She didn’t have an easy time there, either. “The bureau chief in Israel was against it. I waited half a year. He was against my joining because he wasn’t sure he wanted women in the bureau. That was also the reason for the boycott against me in Rome. Women were a bit foreign in this field. The idea of female photojournalists was not as accepted then as it is today. A female photographer in a bureau of male photographers was a problem back then. I wasn’t taken seriously.”
The peace agreement between Israel and Egypt had been signed a few years earlier. “The feeling was that we were headed for a period of quiet,” she recalls. “But within a short time I was assigned to photograph the first Lebanon War. I was sent from the very first day. I went up north, to [Kibbutz] Gesher Haziv. The journalists broke through the fences and entered Lebanon. There were no land mines then. I started to move around there with all kinds of people. At first I stuck with Eitan Haber, who was the military correspondent of [the daily] Yedioth Ahronoth. Then I wandered around with photographers and with the CBS network crew. I got to Beirut even before the Israeli army conquered the city.”
In Beirut she stayed at the Alexander, the photographers’ hotel, in the eastern part of the city. “It wasn’t a war of missiles, it was a real war. Soldiers moved from house to house, street to street; the gunfire never stopped. The images I see from there are of ruins of buildings and walls riddled with bullets. What I remember most is the nights, because they were long nights of shelling. Red ricochets from live fire flew past my hotel window all night. The windows were shattered. I soon ran out of clothes to wear. I remember that the AP correspondent there brought me clothes of hers all the time. One day I was hurt in a car bomb attack. I was sitting with a few photographers in a cafe and we saw the car lift into the air. I was covered with shrapnel and was treated in an Israel Defense Forces field hospital. When I washed my hair, I would remove bits of shrapnel.”
Golan Heights by Rina Castelnuovo.
“I met her for the first time when I displayed work by her husband as part of the photo exhibition about the intifada that was held in my gallery in 1989,” says Ami Steinitz, the curator of the “Local Testimony” show in Tel Aviv, referring to Castelnuovo Hollander. “Even though she photographed there in the same period, she did not exhibit. She never pushed herself, despite her tremendous achievements. During my stay in the United States, as well as on The New York Times’ Web site, I came across many of her important photographs. I don’t know of any other Israeli figure who has worked so continuously with one internationally prominent newspaper. She is one of the most important photographers in Israel. She is our marker – she creates our visual image.”
What sets her work apart?
Steinitz: “There is a very human dimension to her photographs, which gets across the subject’s situation. There is a story in her pictures, not only a specific news event. There is also always something metaphorical about the photos. For example, in the series about the ‘garbage children,’ there is an image of a boy who is wandering about in the dump with white butterfly wings on his back. By this means she instills a deeper human dimension in the people and the situations she photographs.”
Castelnuovo Hollander is flustered by this description. “I don’t look for metaphors when I take pictures, I look for the factual,” she says. “I look for beauty, but I don’t think about it while shooting. Maybe you could say that in my subconscious I am drawn to symbolism, but I am not drawn to such situations by rational thought. I have never stood over a body and asked myself how I can get a beautiful shot out of this.”
The husband of Rina, Jim Hollander, has published countless images over the years as a photographer for Reuters, other news agencies and himself. Some of his work can be found here. Here is one of his images.
Hollander’s description: An Israeli soldier urinates from atop his APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) after returning into an Israeli military staging area near Kibbutz Mefallsim, along the border with the northern Gaza Strip, near Bet Hanoun on October 18, 2006. The APC had just returned to Israel from the Gaza Strip. Behind is the Gaza Strip with a valley filled with dust from vehicles maneuvering inside the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to carry out operations in many areas of the Gaza Strip. Hey, even soldiers have to pee from time to time.