"The Search of Meaning and the Pursuit of Happiness" How does one take in a city photographically and artistically and grapple with it? A complex question, especially when speaking of Jerusalem, the meeting point of three central world religions since biblical times, and today lodged at the heart of the political conflict between groups that could be identified as Jews or Israelis, Arabs or Palestinians, or Europeans and Middle Easterners. The city’s atmosphere evokes centuries of history that unfold with every step; walking in the city is like walking through a giant museum. But this totality of temples, synagogues, churches, mosques, towers and holy places, as alluring and imposing as it might be, has already been extensively recorded on film, in books and on postcards. This project in 2005 was an initiative of the Jerusalem Foundation, which made possible the cooperation between the municipalities of Hamburg, Germany and Jerusalem, Israel. Thomas Fuesser, a long-time independent photographer, approached Jerusalem’s complexity and heavy historical baggage differently. He prepared himself for the trip by reading historical texts, fiction and biographies of those who have shaped the city since 1948. Coming from afar, he immersed himself in networks of politicians, intellectuals and artists and made many personal connections that would facilitate his taking portrait photos. For these, he used a classic old-fashioned camera with which he produced small colored photos. Between these meetings, Fuesser walked through the city’s neighborhoods taking photographs of markets and street scenes with a small, barely visible digital camera. Over ten days he took some 2,000 photographs, some of them “fast,” meaning digital, and the other “slow,” analog. From this kaleidoscope of spontaneously photographed urban life in the holy city and the carefully posed portraits, Fuesser put together a wall of 150 photos, a mosaic of the city as it is now. Teddy Kollek, Amos Oz, the passport-less spokeswoman of the Jerusalem’s gypsies, a Palestinian in the Old City, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews, a barber, an Ethiopian drug addict -- each figure carries a symbol of its identity. Here a keffiya, or what’s called the Arafat headdress, there the executive’s cell phone, the Coptic monk’s hood, the writer’s wall of books, the long side-curls of religious Jewish men and the boxing gloves of security guards training for emergency action. The mosaic is loaded with signs and declarations that both document and interpret the political day-to-day in the city.
The photographer varied perspectives and concepts offer the viewer a penetrating artistic impression of a city shaped by history, symbolism, political tensions and social difficulties. For the courage to plan this exhibitionâ€“ whose outcome may not be foreseeable -- I want to thank the private and municipal donors from Hamburg and especially Yissakhar Ben Yaacov, father of this initiative. ÂŠ Claus Mewes - Director Kunsthaus Hamburg/Germany, September 2005