The Neo-Arabs Issue

Dean Majd on Photographing the Palestinian Diaspora and More

'I felt instinctively that I needed to photograph the whole experience.'

By Sharifah Alhinai

Known for his diaristic style of photography, Dean Majd is a name that many are coming to know in the art scene. His journey into the creative world started when Majd was seven years old, and his mother gave him a life-changing gift: a camera. ‘I still carry a camera with me at all times. I haven’t stopped taking pictures since,’ he tells me. When he was in middle school, Majd began to focus on photographing his friends at night skateboarding, doing graffiti and sneaking into concerts — a practice that he continues today, and which is reflected in his most popular photography series. Titled Hard Feelings, the body work captures his predominately male friend group at their most candid in extremely intimate and emotionally charged moments. ‘It is a dissection of masculinity, brotherhood and chosen family, male-female relationships and the overall human condition, touching on self-destruction, loneliness and most of all collective and personal grief,’ he describes the work, which debuted at the Aperture Foundation in 2020 about which he spoke at the Pratt Institute in 2021.  Spit, blood, physical and emotional violence, romance and faith appear in the images ‘as a meditation on the multitudes of identity,’ he expands.

Dean Majd. Image by Dallas Saad.

But it was not the first time that Majd’s work has explored the theme of identity. Prior to releasing Hard Feelings to the public, Majd worked on Separation, a series that explores the Palestinian diaspora. ‘In September of 2018, I travelled with my mother to Jordan, the West Bank of Palestine and Israel to meet my whole family,’ says the photographer, who was born and raised in Queens, New York, to Palestinian parents. ‘I felt instinctively that I needed to photograph the whole experience…I did not realise until I returned to the States that I had photographed the Palestinian diaspora through the eyes of my family.’ Similar to Hard Feelings, the work was an intimate documentation, but this time involved his relatives and the land from which he and his family descend. 

From left to right: Image 1 ‘My Grandmother, Amman, 2018.’ Image by Dean Majd from the Separation Series. Image 2 ‘Sheep Farm, ad-Dhahiriya, Hebron, 2018.’ Image by Dean Majd from the Separation Series.

For Majd, photographing the Palestinian diaspora and sharing those photographs with the world is important. ‘Photographing the Palestinian diaspora is to solidify truth of our existence. I want the world to see the complex truth of the Palestinian struggle, to show that despite our separation, we remain one,’ he explains. ‘It’s important for people to see our humanity, to detach themselves from the narrative of violence, and to understand the real lives at the centre of the Palestinian struggle.’

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