Kai Wiedenhöfer

Kai Wiedenhöfer was born in West Germany in 1966. By the age of 14, he had worn out his first book on the conflict in the Middle East. He first visited the Holy Land at the age of 23. Following Robert Capa's dictum that to photograph people you have to like them, he learnt Arabic so that he could talk to them: "good photography is impossible without language", he says.

He studied in Syria for a year and then travelled to Gaza, the Middle East, China and Africa for fifteen months between 1993 and 1994. For the last twenty years, Kai Wiedendhöfer has been photographing this strip of land almost exclusively. He lives there off and on, travelling by motorcycle and donning a German flag "that resembles Richard Coeur de Lion's coat of arms" intended to stimulate dialogue rather than get himself shot at.

Initially, his black and white photos evoked a degree of optimism. But, in 2010, he realised to his dismay that the war is ongoing and nothing seems to be able to bring it to a stop.
 
First winner of the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award, whose 2009 theme was Gaza, Kai Wiedenhöfer returned to the Middle East so that he could bring us back an unsentimental portrayal of the effects of the war on the Strip and its people. More than a "heat of the moment" photographic reportage, this is a long-term documentary portraying both people and buildings who were victims of the fighting. Kai Wiedenhöfer is a descendent of a particular German photographic tradition that emerged in the 1920s with August Sander and continues to exist today through what is commonly referred to as the "Düsseldorf school". Although the approach may be comparable, the subject matter is more associated with investigative journalism. This is why Wiedenhöfer attaches great importance to his texts. They constitute first-hand account of events, as told to him by the people he photographs.

German. Born in 1966 in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany. Lives and works in Berlin.

*Text by Emmanuelle de l'Ecotais, curator of the Gaza 2010 exhibition

Exhibition

Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
11 avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris
5 November - 5 December 2010
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.
Free admission

The Book of Destruction by Kaï Wiedenhöfer

"The Book of Destruction"

is published by Steidl

Bilingual publication in English/French

JURY

The panel, brought together in October 2009 for the first annual Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award, was chaired by the photographer, film-maker and artist William Klein, and comprised :

  • Christian Caujolle, journalist, curator and founder of VU agency and gallery.
  • Guillaume Herbaut, photographer and founding member of the agency Œil Public.
  • Fabrice Hergott, director of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
  • Jean-Luc Marty, editor-in-chief of Géo Magazine.
  • Alain Mingam, photojournalist, exhibition organiser and agent.
  • Vivienne Walt, correspondent for Time Magazine.
Destroyed water tank in Tel Al-Hauwa (1)
Destroyed water tank in Tel Al-Hauwa

Artist's Statement [Extract]

The tunnels are the vital lifelines which keep the Strip alive.

The objective of the project is to highlight the outright violation of article 33 (collective punishment) and article 55 (securing food/medical supplies) of the 4th Geneva Convention by the Israelis with the almost full complicity of the EU and US. The longer the blockade and the occupation will last the more extremism will grow. [...]

Click here to read the article of Kai Wiedenhöfer (Press kit, PDF)

Miriam Al Shafi (2)
Miriam Al Shafi
Mona Al Ashqar (3)
Mona Al Ashqar
Red Container Rockerhit (4)
Red Container Rockerhit

(1) Destroyed water tank in Tel Al-Hauwa

A water reservoir in the Tel Al-Hawa area in the south of Gaza City; Also used as a shelter for Israel troops during the war.

(2) Miriam Al Shafi

(3) Mona Al Ashqar

Mona Al-Asqar, 19 was injured during an artillery strike  on the UNWRA School in Belt Lahia on 17 th January 2009 at about 6.30 am. She was operated on in  Shifa Hospital and later by a team from MSF. A journalist of Arte reported on her and a French organization brought her to Charlesville for physiotherapy, together with her father Salah. She received a provisional prosthesis and will go back to France to receive the final one. Her left upper arm was also heavily injured and burnt. The movement of the hand is limited  and she has no feeling in the thumb and one finger. She also received physiotherapy for this arm. Her aunt, Anjud Al- Asqar was injured in the same event.

(4) Red Container Rockerhit

Destroyed container at the beach North of Gaza, probably used as a post for the Palestinian police.

*These four photographs are part of the Carmignac Foundation collection.