Dheisheh Refugee Camp  I   2018

This story took its beginning in 2011. My boyfriend at that time had a serious illness, the reason, I spent endless days in intensive care units in hospitals and special clinics in Europe. The heart, the symbol of life, always stood dramatically at the center of my experience during this period.

After completing my studies in sociology, I assisted a photographer in Tel Aviv. In addition, I received a grant from the Federal Chancellery for a photographic project in the Palestinian West Bank. I was looking for housing on site. There were many apartments in cities like Ramallah or Bethlehem, but an apartment in a refugee camp seemed like the most interesting, sociologically speaking.

How does society in a 60 years old refugee camp operate? How do the precarious living conditions affect the individuals? How is the society organized? What structures are found? And how will it impact my personality, my own patterns of behaviour and views?

The daily routine is influenced by the Muslim culture and religion, a life between Haram and Halal, the forbidden and the permitted. The individual scope in between is minimal, especially for women. My arrival as a single woman in the camp was seen with great astonishment by the residents.
Quickly I was considered an Israeli or Palestinian spy and of course a cheap woman. Countless visible and invisible eyes were observing me as soon as I stepped out of my apartment.

In June 2014, the war in the Gaza Strip started, public life froze, there were daily protests and military operations in the camp. Suffering, misery and death were omnipresent. It was only in this atmosphere that

I could share with the community the grief I had faced alone the years before.
An idiosyncratic relationship with the camp society formed. On the one hand, many cultural and social paradigams were incomprehensible to me, on the other hand I felt very close to the community emotionally.

After a few returns, little by little mutual confidence built up. At some point, I was no longer a stranger,

I decided to realise a photographic series in the camp. But there was a big question: "What does one show?"

"Camping" is an attempt to depict my perceived atmosphere in the refugee camp.


Copyright of all images Verena Andrea Prenner 2019