Harboring no grandiose illusion that photography workshops are going to end all wars and conflict, Saskia Keeley knows they can do many valuable things:

  • Build trust

  • Enable “enemies” to meet on a personal level

  • Be the little steps along the way toward humanizing and understanding one another just a tiny bit more

  • Open the door for the possibility of peace and a deeper understanding of the "other"

Saskia has spent three years in a row on the ground with 112 women who have participated in the Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding workshops.

She have also explored how these workshops can be helpful in global conversations toward peace and coexistence (working with NGOs like Roots and Taghyeer in the West Bank) and within divided communities (collaborating with NGOs like Pico Union Project in Los Angeles and the Women’s Prison Association in New York City).

The work has been published and presented by highly respected authorities in conflict resolution, such as Yale, Duke, Tufts, UCLA, and NYU Center for Global Affairs.

When building trust in the other, change can happen. All of the participants have shown that there are partners for peace on the smallest of levels.

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Finding a way for women to participate in activities was a particular challenge until Saskia Keeley developed her photography workshops. For several years she has provided cameras and photography lessons to small cohorts of combined Israeli and Palestinian women. While the women take the cameras home over the course of the program, and are encouraged to photograph their lives, the ultimate objective is to photograph each other and create portraits. Using cameras creates both a barrier that allows objectivity in approaching each other, and also a lens in which to see others much more closely and familiarly. The result in many instances is a comfort level between the women and even an intimacy that allows them to share their lives and to see the conflict between their people from another’s point of view. Running these workshops are not without challenges, but the testimony from the women, and especially the photographs, speak to the change they cultivate.
— Northeastern

I have grown up in this area of Gush Etzion, loving to my core this piece of land, connected to it with my soul. With all that love, I have also grown up with fear - and hate. Slowly, just a little bit at a time, I became aware of the tragedy of my reality. I could open my eyes and see that there are other people living here, loving this land as I do, who are humiliated, estranged and hurting. I can understand their connection to this land.    I was in 12th grade during the Second Intifada, and that was just a more concentrated time of fear and pain than what had been going on for years in my life.   As I was growing up, into my 20s, very slowly I came to the realization that when I see Arabs, I do not see them as people, as individuals, but rather as the enemy, whom I was to be cautious of, maintain a distance, and eye nervously to be aware of any sudden movement from their side.  But after your workshop, I realized that I cannot keep on living in this torn world, in this broken reality without doing my small little part to fix it.  To take a portrait of a Palestinian woman was truly special to me. Not noticing it at the time as I was busy with the mission by focusing on her face, noticing her beauty and trying to maximize the light and natural elements around us to capture that beauty. And in the conversation we had afterward, to realize that she too, like me didn’t like to see herself in a photo, and had issues with her image as well. It was such a powerful experience.  Thank you so much for all you do. You can never know what the seeds you plant will grow up like, but be assured that you have planted many seeds - of trust, of belief, of love . - Nechama

I have grown up in this area of Gush Etzion, loving to my core this piece of land, connected to it with my soul. With all that love, I have also grown up with fear - and hate. Slowly, just a little bit at a time, I became aware of the tragedy of my reality. I could open my eyes and see that there are other people living here, loving this land as I do, who are humiliated, estranged and hurting. I can understand their connection to this land.

I was in 12th grade during the Second Intifada, and that was just a more concentrated time of fear and pain than what had been going on for years in my life.

As I was growing up, into my 20s, very slowly I came to the realization that when I see Arabs, I do not see them as people, as individuals, but rather as the enemy, whom I was to be cautious of, maintain a distance, and eye nervously to be aware of any sudden movement from their side.

But after your workshop, I realized that I cannot keep on living in this torn world, in this broken reality without doing my small little part to fix it.

To take a portrait of a Palestinian woman was truly special to me. Not noticing it at the time as I was busy with the mission by focusing on her face, noticing her beauty and trying to maximize the light and natural elements around us to capture that beauty. And in the conversation we had afterward, to realize that she too, like me didn’t like to see herself in a photo, and had issues with her image as well. It was such a powerful experience.

Thank you so much for all you do. You can never know what the seeds you plant will grow up like, but be assured that you have planted many seeds - of trust, of belief, of love
. - Nechama

We were driving around Tekoa and were stuck behind a slow Palestinian truck that had a print of a young Palestinian bride with a big headscarf, of the same sort our friends in the workshop were wearing.   I found myself staring at it with a warm heart and a sense of intimacy. In that moment I realized how deep and basic it is what you gave us in your workshop: intimacy.  We didn't talk about highly important subjects, but we looked closely at each other's faces, clothes, and bodies, we became aware to details. This is something I never had the chance to do, or never thought about the importance of doing it.  I looked at this foreign woman on nthe picture and felt physically and emotionally close to her because of her big scarf and strong makeup, that I subconsciously recognized as familiar to me.   It made me happy and raised my belief that step by step change can happen. Thank you.  - Shuli

We were driving around Tekoa and were stuck behind a slow Palestinian truck that had a print of a young Palestinian bride with a big headscarf, of the same sort our friends in the workshop were wearing.

I found myself staring at it with a warm heart and a sense of intimacy. In that moment I realized how deep and basic it is what you gave us in your workshop: intimacy.

We didn't talk about highly important subjects, but we looked closely at each other's faces, clothes, and bodies, we became aware to details. This is something I never had the chance to do, or never thought about the importance of doing it.

I looked at this foreign woman on nthe picture and felt physically and emotionally close to her because of her big scarf and strong makeup, that I subconsciously recognized as familiar to me.

It made me happy and raised my belief that step by step change can happen. Thank you.
- Shuli

I discovered utter beauty in a place we were conditioned to think of as being dangerous, evil, ugly.   How much beauty was revealed to me through the camera's eye. How exciting to touch and laugh and hug with those on the other side of the wall. How much tenderness as well as sadness was in those eyes that I was able to look at for the first time without fear.  They conditioned me to think she must be a terrorist. Who damaged us like that?  For years I dreamt of being able to knock on my neighbor's door and ask her for sugar or flour. And that she would knock on my door and let me keep her little baby Yusuf who did not let her sleep at night. My Palestinian photo partner didn't stop telling me how beautiful I was.  How much light was emanating from my face, and I felt the same with her. We were talking wordlessly because she did not know English. We spoke in a language of gaze and touch, smiles and body language. I left this workshop with glimmers of hope. That the peace I dreamt of is not utopian or childish or impossible. - Urit

I discovered utter beauty in a place we were conditioned to think of as being dangerous, evil, ugly.

How much beauty was revealed to me through the camera's eye.
How exciting to touch and laugh and hug with those on the other side of the wall.
How much tenderness as well as sadness was in those eyes that I was able to look at for the first time without fear.

They conditioned me to think she must be a terrorist. Who damaged us like that?

For years I dreamt of being able to knock on my neighbor's door and ask her for sugar or flour. And that she would knock on my door and let me keep her little baby Yusuf who did not let her sleep at night. My Palestinian photo partner didn't stop telling me how beautiful I was.

How much light was emanating from my face, and I felt the same with her.
We were talking wordlessly because she did not know English.
We spoke in a language of gaze and touch, smiles and body language.
I left this workshop with glimmers of hope.
That the peace I dreamt of is not utopian or childish or impossible. - Urit


Just as these brave Israeli, Palestinian, and American women have assumed the courage to embrace change, as small as it may seem, we must play our part of spreading their stories because it is just as important.

If we remain silent, if we enable conflicts, thousands of miles away or right in our neighborhoods, to persist there will be no change.

Genuine progress would become unattainable.

But we can also prevent that from happening by spreading the word, sharing with one another, creating a single small change that can lead to other more significant changes.