Ariella Azoulay


On her book The Civil Contract of Photography

Cover Interview of January 22, 2009


February 20, 2016

It’s only an hour or so since I read this interview -and I’ll need time to work through its layers of meanings. But I can already see its direct relevance to some photographs that I took 25 years ago of rebel campesinos in El Salvador at the end of the 12 year civil war.
I worked directly with a small community of returned refugees, many of who had also been combatants. I felt self-conscious about being the only person in that community who had a camera, a second-hand Canon A1, so I spread the word that anyone could come to my shack after work and I’d take a photo and give it to them. I ended up taking hundreds of photos. It was something I always felt very
good about.
The best way I could describe it was that I hadn’t taken their photographs -I’d given them their photographs. So in Ariella’s terms I wasn’t the sovereign photographer , nor were they objects to me. We were engaged in a joint project to claim rights of citizenship for the excluded. And pity, compassion, empathy didn’t come into it.
But until just now I couldn’t properly put my own thoughts into words.
I’ve recently had many of the negarives developed. There’s a possibility of an exhibition. I realise now, however, that I cannot go forward with this without their agreement.
My email is if anyone want to discuss.