In November 2018, London-based photographer Joseph Barrett visited the West Bank where he captured a series of images, Rock Soft is the result.
The West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip, has been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 war. The Palestinians who live there face harsh restrictions on their movement, limited access to basic resources such as water and electricity, and frequent acts of violence from Israeli military forces and settlers.
Barrett was visiting the region on behalf of SkatePal, a non-profit organisation that supports communities throughout Palestine, promoting the social, health, and well-being benefits of skateboarding to enhance the lives of local youth. Through his lens, Barrett sought to document his experiences: his interactions, and conversations with villagers, the details and landscapes that caught his eye, capturing the warm hospitality he received contrasted against the tumultuous political landscape.
As Annabelle Mödlinger eloquently states in her introduction, Barrett’s images, (as is often the case with the most effective storytelling) suggest rather than explain. Portraits of children, their beaming faces juxtaposed against rubble-filled landscapes; barbed wire, gnarled and aggressive, remind us of the constrictions and struggles faced by those living in the region. Barret avoids the clichés that often plague outsider photographers refraining from 'othering' the people he photographs or portraying them and where they live as purely tragic or sad.
Nevertheless, the realities of life in the West Bank are not ignored.
His portraits of children, their beaming faces juxtaposed against rubble-filled landscapes; barbed wire, gnarled and aggressive, remind us of the constrictions and struggles faced by those living in the region.
Beautifully rendered in subtle, analogue tones, and presented in a manner befitting of the subject, it is a deeply absorbing, poignant, and human collection of photographs that give voice to the Palestinian people and their resilience in the face of adversity.