Ahlam Shibli’s Death and Photography in Arabic: A Letter from a Pillar of Salt

Hannah Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This letter turns to late-nineteenth-century understandings of photography in Arabic as al-taswir al-shamsi—which translates roughly as “solar imaging”—to read a suite of photographs by Ahlam Shibli that depicts the ways in which martyrs of the second intifada are remembered in Nablus. Drawing on connotations embedded in the Arabic term taswir and in a careful study of the way light works in Shibli's photographs, the letter—addressed to you from a person who identifies as a pillar of salt, stuck, looking back but wanting to move forward—makes the argument that, far from indexing a past built on death and displacement, the photographs give light to an alternate social reality in which the Palestinian lives free from the constraints of life as the Israeli's have allowed it, which is to say life as a condition of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-187
Number of pages20
Issue number185
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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