Tony Kane is a photographer, originally from Kilbarrack, and last June he returned from spending 9 months in Palestine. Himself and some fellow artists have set up the Bare Collective and their first collaboration is featured in this year’s Photo Ireland festival.
The exhibition includes a short video documentary by Kieran Quigley and Mark Ponisi. Where Tony chats candidly about how his stay in Palestine impacted both his work as a photographer and his understanding of occupation. He started out as a landscape gardener, then dedicated himself to candid photography and what he calls “the beauty of normality”.
But his stay in Palestine sharply affected this:
“My style of photography definitely changed when I went over there. What I was used to doing over here was a lot more calm than when I was over there. I meant I suppose it was like going from, the most normal everyday life, the place was normal, where you were just capturing moments to what you would call action shots. There was a lot of moments when people were just running in all different directions.”
Several clashes with the defence forces later, and he was forced to come to terms with the reality of photography while showers of rubber bullets rained down. It was “a complete [eye] opener,” he says. “It was the first time I had heard live fire, it was complete panic.”
In this project he documented the demolition of tents and animal structures – all carried out in the middle of January, the coldest month of the year.
“What I saw nearly had me in tears, women and kids standing there crying, pointing at a shelter they were going to be spending the next couple of nights in and water flooding right through the whole area. It was horrendous.”
Living alongside Palestinians, he risked his own personal safety, and was exposed to the tear gas clouds pumped out by the Israeli Defence Forces far too regularly.
“I was caught bad quite a few times, one of the times was out in Bil’in and they sent in a horrendous amount. It’s fired out from a launcher on top of one of jeep and there’s 24 of these launched out, there could be another jeep down this end and they’d do the same thing. The whole area gets completely smothered with this gas. I think five times, I’ve been shot but it’s okay considering the length of time and amount of demonstrations I’d been over there. A friend of mine that had been over there, Tommy Donnellan, he’s a film-maker and activist from Galway – he was shot five times in one day.”
His return to Ireland has left him slightly bewildered, the adjustment has been strange as he gets used to normality back home.
“Just little things you got used to doing over there. You had to be careful if you were somewhere and talking about the occupation, you’d be looking over your shoulder. Things like that, when you get home – that freedom to say what you want, that was really good. But also, what I found difficult was what I knew about this place before I went out was not a lot, I find that not many people know the real truth about what’s going on in Palestine. When I came back I was a bit bewildered as to why this was happening and no one was doing anything about it.”