During this second reading, I found myself focusing less on the over-arching issue and more on the details threaded throughout the text. The first one that struck me was the discussion of the role of the Mercedes in Palestinian culture. As someone whose home has always been a stable, uncontested thing, cars have only been of secondary notice to me. Sure, I like my car, I know what company it’s from (Mazda), and I enjoy putting cat stickers on the back window, but that’s about the extent to my connection to the automobile world. And so it is fascinating to me, to hear the Mercedes described as “the all-purpose conveyance, something one uses for everything–funerals, weddings, births, proud display, leaving home, coming home, fixing, stealing, reselling, running away in, hiding in.” It made me wonder– is there anything quite so symbolic to the American? Something that is evident in every facet of life?
(^On a later reflection, I realized that there is an automobile that holds particularly strong feelings for me– the Volkswagen. My grandfather forbid my mom from driving a VW because of its German history and role in the Holocaust. When I was looking for a car, I avoided VW ads with a certain vehemence that must’ve been absorbed from my grandpa’s feelings).
“There was the embarrassment of people uncertain why they were being looked at and recorded. Powerless to stop it.” That was an eye-stopper of a line. It is a quote that grabs you and shoves your forcefully into the shoes of the subject. For a few seconds, I could feel the awkward silence before the snap of the camera, the stiff yet dignified square of the man’s shoulders. It also made me wonder how I make my subjects feel when I am behind the lens. There is that question: Is my life really so horrible that someone wants to document it for social change?
And how do you feel when that is you?