Part two with Steve Peer’s intervew with Joel Carillet.
You do a lot of street photography, do you ever encounter hostility from your subjects?
Sometimes, but rarely. A recent experience: I took a picture of the hands of an illegal money changer in the West Bank town of Ramallah last month. I had tried to get his attention to ask permission first, but he was occupied. So from ten feet away I just took it. I got caught and he got angry. He yelled at me right there in the city’s main square, and I sincerely apologized, agreeing that I should have asked first. I showed him the picture on my screen and prepared to delete it in front of him. But then he stopped. “No, it’s a good picture,” he said. Then he apologized for yelling and offered to buy me a cup of tea. The next day, when i returned to the square for more pictures, he was biggest supporter, chasing away a mentally unstable fellow who began yelling at me for photographing the square.
What’s your favorite photograph (that you have taken) and why?
In April 2002, I spent one week in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin. Arriving n the camp, you could still smell rotting bodies under the rubble of houses (the Israeli military had just withdrawn after an intense battle with armed Palestinians, leveling scores of houses as communal punishment for the camp’s resistance before departing). Entering the camp, all five senses were inundated with the aftermath of death and destruction. I had never been to the camp before and had no place to stay, but after only two minutes in the camp an older Palestinian man, squatting on the rubble of his home, asked if I needed a place to stay. I said yes, and he invited me to stay with his family in the one room they still had standing. It was an extraordinary display of hospitality on more levels than I can explain here, and the next day I captured a candid shot of this man and his wife amidst their rubble. The composition was excellent, but the sentimental meaning for me was just as important.In general, my favorite photos are ones that somehow, in some small way, capture truth. Or at least that begin to capture the reality of a situation, rather than reality be beautiful or horror-filled.
What keeps you inspired and your captures fresh?
My friends will tell you that on many days I can be too much caught up in my own thoughts and a bit depressed. Inspiration does not come easily at all, especially now that three years of writing and pictures has so far netted me what most of my friends earn in a week, which has in turn led to considerable financial stress. Sometimes — often, actually — I want to throw both pen and camera into a box and be done with it. But if something keeps me inspired it is this: the human being and our world in general is a beautiful mystery to me. Both can be completely ugly sometimes too, but each of us is capable of great beauty. And sometimes cameras can not only capture that, but sometimes they can even help bring it out of a person.
What kind of gear are you using?
It was, until October, a Sony camcorder with a still function built into it. Now it is a Nikon D80. I can only afford one lens at the moment, and that is a Nikkor 18-135mm.
What are your tips for up-and-coming photographers?
The same tip I would give just about anybody: love people, and love life. Of course, read up a bit on how to take a decent picture, but I’m not sure what photographing is for — or anything else for that matter — if love is not somehow involved. There is a quote in Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov that has stuck with me since I first came across it four years ago. If I may, I’d like to close with it: “Love man in his sin too, for such love resembles God’s love, the highest possible form of love on earth. Love God’s creation, love every atom of it separately, and love it also as a whole…”
Written and Transcribed by Steve Peer
Photography by Joel Carillet
Photos: Abu Rajah and his wife, one week after the Israeli army demolished all but one room of their house to make way for tanks in their crowded refugee camp. When I visited Jenin Refugee Camp in 2002 and had no place to stay, Abu Rajah invited me, a complete stranger, to stay with his family in the one room still standing. Two of his sons had already been killed by the Israeli Defense Force (one died of an asthma attack brought on by tear gas, forbidden by the soldiers to leave their house to go to a nearby hospital for treatment). During my stay, Abu Rajah and his wife asked that I make time to talk with their third son, a 17-year old who hoped to be a suicide bomber. Their hope: that an outsider would have more influence than parents in discouraging a child from committing such a terrible act.Boy in monastery – Tachilek, Myanmar.