Photographer drawn to the war zone

Swindon Advertiser: Seconds after Jason Moore took a picture of this Palestinian protester, the photographer was shot with a rubber bullet Seconds after Jason Moore took a picture of this Palestinian protester, the photographer was shot with a rubber bullet

JASON Moore is in the midst of a violent melee as dozens of Palestinian demonstrators hurl rocks and stones at Israeli troops. Armed soldiers charge protesters and everyone runs for cover. Well, almost everyone. Jason, a photographer, is keen to capture the dramatic scenes as they unfold so he decides to hang around. He is close to a demonstrator who is about lob a hefty missile. Jason has him in his sights. Click. Gotcha.

A soldier, meanwhile, also has the young Palestinian in his sights. Click. Missed. He shoots Jason instead. Reeling around in a dusty field, the pain is excruciating. Jason has taken a rubber bullet square in the back.

But unlike the Israeli squaddie who just pole-axed him, he knows that amidst the sheer agony of it all he has taken a great shot. Jason, 39, recalls with a shrug: “The Israeli army entered this field we were in and foolishly I stayed and continued taking pictures while everybody else fled.”

It seemed like a good idea at the time. He only later deduces that the rock thrower is using him for cover.

“First the soldiers shot me, and then they shot him. A minute later, while lying on the ground in pain, a soldier gave me a gentle prod with his foot and said, ‘Next time do not get in our way my stupid friend’.”

For more than a decade the Swindon based freelance photographer has visited Israel many times, building up a striking portfolio of images that graphically capture the ongoing agony, pathos and anger of this divided, tortured region.

He first visited Jerusalem and the West Bank as part of his university course when he gained a degree in Documentary Photography and has returned to the Middle East on several occasions, once living there for a year as a freelance photojournalist.

Jason, who also works as a wedding and commercial photographer in Swindon, sometimes finds himself in tricky scenarios during his often hazardous tours of photographic duty in what is virtually a war zone.

Ongoing protests against the construction of Israel’s controversial security barrier in the West Bank frequently end in violent confrontations between the army and Palestinian villagers.

He says: “I attended them on a regular basis and swiftly became adept at avoiding stones, dealing with the effects of tear gas, and either running away or finding cover when events became a little too dangerous.”

One of his favourite photos is of an Israeli settler dressed as a clown and merrily juggling while a soldier stands guard during the celebrations of a Jewish religious festival in the Israeli occupied Old City of Hebron.

Says Jason: “Approximately 500 Israeli settlers live in the heart of this important Palestinian city guarded by the Israeli army.

“Hebron is a flashpoint of violence in the West Bank and on this day, the checkpoints into the Israeli area were closed.

“As a result myself and another photographer had to break in to the Old City by clambering over a couple of rooftops, scaling a fence, and then sneaking through a cemetery using the gravestones as cover to avoid being spotted.

“Once inside, no one actually cared that we were there, and we were free to take pictures.

“I rather like this photograph as juggling jesters and soldiers in a war zone isn’t something seen in tandem very often.”

An image of graffiti scrawled by a Jewish settler on the gates of a Palestinian house in Hebron highlights the plight of the city’s indigenous population who, says Jason, are often subjected to physical and verbal assault.

He says: “Due to the presence of approximately 500 Israeli settlers and the soldiers who protect them, the souk of this ancient Palestinian city has become a virtual ghost town: its shops and businesses closed and houses abandoned.

“I stumbled upon this graffiti one afternoon. I love the juxtaposition and innocence of the twin Palestinian girls and the racist graffiti.”

On another occasion he lives for a week in a complex of caves, documenting the lives of Palestinian shepherds of Qawawis, who – incredibly, in the 21st Century – continue to survive without electricity, running water and other basic necessities.

Jason says: “In our increasingly globalised world the struggle to maintain traditional cultures is becoming ever more difficult “This tiny complex of caves, located in the harsh and rugged terrain of the Southern Hebron Hills of the West Bank is isolated from mainstream Palestinian society and flanked on either side by Israeli settlements.

“The villagers don’t actually know how long their community has lived in the caves, says Jason. The usual response is: “Before my grandfathers’ grandfather’s grandfather…”

For some time Jason has been trying to capture the sheer enormity of Israel’s hugely controversial Separation Barrier Wall but hasn’t quite pulled it off.

And then “one afternoon, while drinking tea on the balcony of a Palestinian house in Bethlehem, I spotted an Israeli security guard starting to run alongside the wall.

“I quickly grabbed my rangefinder and managed to snap off one shot. Unfortunately, I grabbed it so fast I upset the table of tea.

“My Palestinian host was very annoyed – but not as annoyed as no longer being able to visit or even see his olive groves which are on the other side of the wall.”

Part-wall, part-fence the vast structure – aimed at improving security for Israeli nationals – is mostly around 30ft high, and will eventually stretch for 420-miles, cutting off many Palestinian families and communities from each other.

Former Dorcan School student Jason, who has lived in Swindon most of his life, is a freelance photographer who gained a 2:1 Degree in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales in Newport.

For his final year project he flew to Jerusalem and The West Bank three times to document the construction of Israel's security barrier.

Since then he has visited the region on numerous occasions and spent a year there in 2005 as a photojournalist. His images have been published globally in newspapers and magazines and widely exhibited, notably at the prestigious Frontline Club in London; and also in Edinburgh, Jerusalem, and at the Welsh National Eisteddfod.

He was a finalist in the 2005 British Journal of Photography’s Endframe Competition for his work in Israel.

He currently works in Swindon as a professional wedding and commercial photographer whose recent clients have included Swindon Council and Dolby Laboratories.

For the latter he produced images for calendars of Wiltshire, London and Amsterdam.

Jason has also been the official photographer for Swindon’s popular Big Arts Day event.

l Jason’s website address can be found at www.jasonstevenmoorephotography.co.uk Telephone: 07854434269

Comments (1)

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2:36pm Wed 6 Nov 13

hursthill says...

Good article. It should be pointed out thet rocks & stones are also hurled at Israeli civilians. Children in cars have been murdered by these rock hurlers.
Imagine thugs throwing stones at cars on the M4!

Israelis also make up the indiginous population in the area. If these Palestinians ceased thir violence against civilians there would be no need for a security barrier. A similar one is in Belfast. Let's hope the direct peace talks now taking place achieve an end to this violence.
Good article. It should be pointed out thet rocks & stones are also hurled at Israeli civilians. Children in cars have been murdered by these rock hurlers. Imagine thugs throwing stones at cars on the M4! Israelis also make up the indiginous population in the area. If these Palestinians ceased thir violence against civilians there would be no need for a security barrier. A similar one is in Belfast. Let's hope the direct peace talks now taking place achieve an end to this violence. hursthill

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