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Palestine in Print: Showcasing home-grown Palestinian talent

Tazim Hamid's story began with a dream, and a voice fuelled by a passion to help the Palestinian cause. Set up to provide a platform for Palestinian artists and writers to publish their own work free of charge, the Palestine in Print project has done exactly that. Shortly after visiting Palestine in February 2012 as a volunteer to plant olive trees, Hamid's first published photo book, Roots Run Deep: Life in Occupied Palestine by Hamde Abu Rahma, was born, thus paving the way for Palestine in Print. She came into contact with Abu Rahma, a photographer and activist who was featured in the Oscar-nominated film 5 Broken Cameras, and after a few conversations learnt of his dream of publishing a photo book illustrating the unjust and inhumane occupation. This aspiration, however, was stunted by the lack of finances at his disposal in being represented by a publisher, designer, or even in possessing basic resources such as a bank account.

Hamid then began what would be the first steps to establish Palestine in Print. She consulted her brother, who guided Abu Rahma on probable costs and designs; and so a journey ensued of two strangers, living miles away and having no experience in publishing, sharing a determination to get t pictorial message out to a wider world. Hamid began raising money for the photobook mainly through Facebook appeals, and within three months was awarded a small grant. The book was completed within seven months, and proved a great triumph for both Hamid and Abu Rahma, both of whom had had no prior experience in publishing. However, this first publication was not without its obstacles; many of the meetings took place over Skype and e-mail, resulting in numerous misunderstandings and difficulties in conveying points. Hamid was also the only one able to see the development of Abu Rahma's book and had to make important strategic decisions, thus creating a strong bond of trust – something Hamid would have to develop when working with other Palestinian photographers also looking to publish their work.

Palestine in Print is based loosely on a micro financing model; Hamid invests a small amount of money to produce blank greeting cards, which are then sold to raise money towards producing the books. Palestine in Print then helps to produce, design, edit and sell the books on behalf of the Palestinian artist. The Palestinian artist then keeps all profits their book make, with only the printing costs of the book being paid from those profits. The money is then used towards the next printing order, thus continuing the cycle.

Nearly two years since its founding, Palestine in Print now has three further photo collections to its name: Palestine: Children of Bil'in; Occupied Palestine through My Lens, both authored by Haitham Al Khatib; and Palestine: Children of Gaza, by Ahmed Salama. The books host a collection of photos and captions highlighting different aspects of the Israeli occupation and life in Palestine. Many of the photos capture Palestinians going about their daily lives against the backdrop of destruction and the aftermath of war; but still with smiles on their faces and the innocence of children shining through the pictures. In Occupied Palestine through My Lens, the pictures are accompanied by captions written by the photographer so that the reader is aware of the context and significance of the pictures. This brings the reader closer to what the photographer sees and helps them to visualise the type of life Palestinians are forced to live and the aggression and difficulties they face on a daily basis.

Aside from the photobooks, Palestine in Print has also published a collection of free verse poems, Prison for the Innocent authored by Abdul Hamid. Tazim Hamid hopes to also produce collections of short stories and poetry by Palestinian writers as the project grows to include more genres and to further showcase Palestinian talents. Many of the works featured are from artists Hamid has herself approached, but she hopes that as Palestine in Print grows there will be a nomination process in which the Palestinian artists pitch their ideas or where their work is nominated by supporters.

Currently, Palestine in Print has three further publications in the pipeline: Fishermen of Gaza by Fadi Thabet, released this month; The Kufiya: Digital art from Gaza and Sunsets of Bil'in. Further information on Palestine in Print can be found at www.palestineinprint.com.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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