100 articles – ‘Philip Pullman’s photograph of the decade’

10 May 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

‘Philip Pullman’s photograph of the decade’ by Philip Pullman

When the British newspaper The Guardian asked its writers to choose their most powerful picture of the first decade of the 21st century, they were immediately inundated with snapshots of the September 11 tragedy and natural disasters.

Taking a different tack, Philip Pullman selected an photograph taken by Abbas Momani of Daniel Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Founded by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra consists of young Israeli and Palestinian musicians. All of them, with their diverse backgrounds, are brought together not to argue about political opinions, but to share music. This project ‘won’t bring peace, but it will bring music’, says Pullman, quoting W. H. Auden ‘No poem saved a single Jew from the gas chambers. Never mind. Write the poems anyway.’

Instead of conflict, this article discusses how art can be stronger than politics. A picture is powerful not just because it hurts or it is colourful, but because there is a context.

‘Blood, smoke, rubble, floodwater, guns, bodies, riot shields, flames, skyscrapers, more rubble and more floodwater and more blood – is that what the decade was about?’ Thanks to Philip Pullman, I am glad to answer: ‘no, it isn’t’.

Pauline Halfon is a Master of Global Communications student from France studying at La Trobe University.

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