The global award in photography and sustainability

Pavel Wolberg

My series of panoramic photographs from Israel, the West Bank and Ukraine, shows barricades and dividing fences, separating walls and improvised borders as living signifiers of conflicts and disputes.
This is a photographic journey which focuses on two contemporary conflicts: the Israeli-Palestinian and the Russian-Ukrainian, both are connected to my own personal identity: Israeli and Russian. Both places are controlled by human need for constantly formulating, defining, and separating spaces of living, either of nations, communities. It is a personal project that started as a photojournalistic work and has developed into a research of landscape imagery and its transformation during territorial disputes into an emblematic disordered space.

The barricades are architectural elements that instantly appear and change existence around them. They are made out of tiles, barrels, blocks, and sacks of sand against which human beings seem to blur And become insignificant.

The series centers on the relationship between the people who take part in the conflict but we cannot see their faces vis-a-vis the horizon which is formed in panoramic landscape scenery. I chose for the project the panoramic framework since it reminds me of the Western film genre when the Cinemascope format has first appeared. In this format, the relations between the figures, the plot and the space where the action takes place create a moment of an epic dimension. In the instance the photo is taken, the human figure loses his or her individual identity and into a symbolic representation in space and time. This is the moment when mythologies of war and conflicts are created.

The horizon gives an illusion of the end of space and the limit of the photographs. I use it to examine the tension between the supposed endlessness of the landscape and the confined spaces created by the various kinds of barricades. It is no longer a passive visual terrain but an instrument of reformation of a political and social reality. These new disordered spaces of conflict are the aesthetic and existential center of the images, which spread in front of our eyes as mythical, primordial, sceneries.

The barricades are the instant, moment-to-moment, concretization of separation of lives, identities, and ways of being. It is here that political, social and above all, religious believes are conjured up into a violent confrontation frontline made out of piles and multitudes. These barricades become turbulent focal points in the landscape where space is constantly reshaped and re-conquered and always remains chaotic.