On the page immediately after the cover of the book is a tribute sentence that reads “this book is dedicated to all the underdogs and vulnerable of the world”, followed by a somewhat dark and gloomy looking page: a photo of birds flying above a concrete wall under construction.
To fully understand why the photo looks dark and gloomy, you need to jump into the book of an essay titled “Jeong Eun-jin’s Struggle for Hope.” The Israeli government has built a huge separation barrier surrounding the West Bank. It even extended to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Parts of the wall cut deep into Palestinian territory, forcing residents to take a long detour and pass through a checkpoint before reaching their own farmlands. Ironically, the barrier was built by Palestinian workers. They did not betray their people but took the construction work because they had to put food on the table. And they finally built a concrete wall about 700 kilometers long and nine meters high. The wall has turned the West Bank into a gigantic prison, resembling Nazi concentration camps. The only difference is that the West Bank barrier is much larger and more permanent. You can only wonder what lessons have been taught after years of historical suffering and trial.
Photojournalist Jeong Eun-jin, who was taking pictures of the apartheid wall under construction, inadvertently looked up and saw birds flying over the fences. She took their photos as the thought occurred to her that people can’t walk through the wall while birds can. It was a paradoxical moment where the free-flying birds make you aware of the reality of Palestinians left in the blind spot of human rights.
These photos couldn’t change such a reality, but you still can’t look away. And that’s exactly why world-class photojournalist Jeong seeks out the world’s most vulnerable people, including Palestinians, and captures their pain and tears. This is also where the tribute sentence on the first page of his essay comes from. This is perhaps the warmest aesthetic photograph ever taken by a foreigner.