The Harrowed Hands of Palestine


Electronic Intifada
By Sarah Irving
November 2, 2015


Some of the most viscerally disturbing pictures in the book are to be found in the 2006 sequence titled “Exit.” This is made up of photographs of the backs of many different hands and wrists. All belong to elderly people; the skin is almost translucent, many seem bruised or withered and some are gnarled with arthritis. The title of the work is ambiguous; is the “exit” the extremity of the body, the ends of the fingers? Or the apparently imminent exit from life? But the images are also fascinating; each hand, on examination, implying so many tales of work, touch, love, injury, beauty and pain.


view on the Electronic Intifada website

Steve Sabella, “My Art Is Not About Palestine! It’s About My Life.”


Palestine Square – The Blog of the Institute for Palestine Studies

By Khelil Bouarrouj
March 6, 2015


“My art is not about Palestine! It’s about my life.” Steve Sabella quickly corrected me as I started our interview with a line about his art and its connection to the land of his birth. Sabella rejected the effort to label him. “Many people seek to put labels and categories on my work,” he told me. And while aware of the expectations surrounding a “Palestinian artist,” he has long held that what other people think of him is of no consequence to his own truth. Sabella is not trying to distance himself from Palestine. Far from it, he assures me, but he contends, “I think it is better to be from someplace” than to be defined by it. Steve from Jerusalem, Palestine, rather than Steve the Palestinian. Instead of national labels doing the introduction, Sabella argues, understanding people as simply from somewhere—recognizing the individual instead of projecting their representation of a collective upon them—allows for clearer communication between us all.


view on The Institute for Palestine Studies website


New Constellations for Steve Sabella


January 2015


It was a busy year for Berlin-based Palestinian artist Steve Sabella, with 2014 seeing four exhibitions and a monograph (Steve Sabella: Photography 1997–2014 by Hatje Cantz)… Layers (21 September–21 October) at CAP Kuwait featured the new series Independence (2013) and 38 Days Of Re-Collection (2014) alongside Metamorphosis (2012) and Exit (2006) alongside a book launch on the opening night.



Steve Sabella. Archaeology of the future


December 24 2014


PDF (Italian)

Steve Sabella, Memories as Artifacts



By Luca Maffeo

October, 2014


PDF (Italian)

Discoveries of a Mental Journey


Archeology of the Future Exhibition Catalogue

The International Center of Photography Scavi Scaligeri in Verona

By Beatrice Benedetti



Steve’s trip, it could be said, was simply an expedition, with discoveries and restoration, the only difference being that the key value of the objects he found is not the rediscovery of a lost time, but rather the discovery of an original idea that is preserved for the days to come.


view entire catalogue
watch exhibition teaser

Beyond Palestine


Layers Exhibition Catalogue

Contemporary Art Platform (CAP), Kuwait

By Malu Halasa


Some fragments show decorative Roman and Mediterranean motifs from tiled floors, or a blurred outline of an old fashioned Palestinian nuclear family. There are ghostly images of a traditional kitchen, the lone teakettle or clusterings of cutlery. All of the fragments attest to the lives lived, lost and forgotten within those spaces. This is a highly charged emotional work, which has at its essence time travel: exile and return, reconstruction of homeland and the past, but above all, the impermanence of the human condition.



visit CAP website



Layers Exhibition Catalogue

Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) Kuwait

By Abed Al Kadiri


For 38 Days of Re-collection (2014) he revisited Jerusalem, and ultimately presents us with one of the most important projects of his career. In my opinion this work challenges traditional concepts of photography as a reflection of reality and record of history…

These pieces reflect the tenderness and vulnerability that come after the landmarks and culture of one’s homeland are replaced by the extraneous and oppressive components that represent the occupation. But walls do not forget – their memory is resilient. 



visit CAP website


Steve Sabella – Photography 1997-2014


By Hubertus Von Amelunxen



With the Exit cycle Sabella had metaphorically left his native place, his place of origin—the “unspeakable home,” Samuel Beckett writes in the libretto poem for Morton Feldman’s 1977 opera, Neither. In Exit the tissue of the hand and the marks of life left by time seem like superimpositions, layers. The hands have reached for life; as bodies they have become places of history, places of memory, there before our eyes in the image, severed from everything. The mark on the skin resembles the faded tattoo evoked by Tarafa Ibn al-‘Abd that has left behind a memory of love. Bodies are overwritten with their history and, like a palimpsest, preserve the traces that are gradually deposited and reappear, depending on the question asked of them and the situation…


The three cycles created between 2004 and 2014 [Exit, Till the End and 38 Days of Re-collection] have an archaeological and anthropological dimension. Just as the hands in Exit resemble an inventory and a museum presentation of human fragments, the two other cycles also resemble careful removals of living circumstances, residues, at particular historically verifiable times.


view monograph
order on Hatje Cantz website

Stages of Transition. Visualizing Exile in the Work of Steve Sabella


Afterimage – Volume 39, Number 6

By Dorothea Schoene


His next series, “Euphoria,” followed immediately; indeed, Sabella began the series just a week after finishing “In Transition.” Ultimately, the aesthetic aspect of each piece became increasingly important.While the title still reveals a personal impulse and a reflection of emotional state, the examination of beauty and aesthetics has become a more prevalent part of the work… As one of the most prominent contemporary photographers from the Middle East, Sabella has revealed in his work not only his autobiography, but also a symptomatic portrayal of an entire generation of exiled and displaced artists from the region.

… Sabella, in his use of non-Middle Eastern iconography, most certainly fits into this description. However, his self-referential works still retain strong evidence of where he is coming from and what has inspired him.



Portfolio: Steve Sabella


Brennpunkt – Berlin

By Dorothea Schoene 

January 2012


PDF (German)

Steve Sabella – I am From Jerusalem


Euphoria and Beyond Exhibition Catalogue

The Empty Quarter, Dubai

By Christa Paula


In 2007 Sabella left Jerusalem for further studies abroad. Before his departure, however, he prepared Exit, a disturbing photographic sequence of aged hands, gnarled and discoloured by time to which he refers as his ‘exilic landscapes.’ While for the first time, this artwork specifically makes use of the human body, it also intimates a yearning for re-connection, a release from mental exile. Perhaps it is ironic, or simply human, that he was to achieve this only once he entered the Diaspora, that is, after he physically left home.



Exodus and Back



By Myrna Ayad


It then seems as though Sabella’s In Transition hit the nail right on the head and snowballed into a mental ecstasy. in the same week that he shot images for In Transition, came Euphoria, “like an explosion!” here, the images take on a chromosomal quality; the apparent veins and arteries clearly connect to one another and Sabella’s dna is unmistakably lucid.



Steve Sabella – In Exile – Conversation with the Artist


Exhibition Catalogue, Metroquadro Gallery, Turin

By Sara Rossino  

May 2010


The first time you find yourself in front of the artworks which make up the In Exile series by Steve Sabella, you have a strange feeling of familiarity. Not with regards to the places which are featured in the images, fragments of a subjective reality which is alien to the viewer, details of the everyday London life which the artist has been living with his family for the past three years since he left the Old City of Jerusalem. These shards of captured memories, deconstructed and reconstructed, are intimate to Sabella because they belong to his daily dimension, but are distant from the spectator, lacking a familiar or recognizable reference, extracted from an anonymous anywhere.


PDF (Italian & English)


Steve Sabella – The Journey of Artistic Interrogation and Introspection


By Yasmin El Rashidi

Contemporary Practices Journal

Volume VI, 2010


Palestinian-born artist Steve Sabella could well be a younger, more alternative, more artistic version of the late Edward Said. Like the literary exile who lived in an enclave of a world he had created for himself on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, surrounded and consumed and embedded in the construct of texts that deconstructed the reality he struggled with, Sabella is one who lives in an equal state of alienation – confined to an exile that transcends place: London, and rather is contained in the bounds of his mind. A mind that like Said’s did deconstructs only to rebuild again, but in this case, using a terminology of visual narratives.



Steve Sabella from Jerusalem to Exile



By Najwan Darwish

Issue 4179 Volume 12

September 4, 2007


PDF (Arabic)