Verena Andrea Prenner (AT) "Camping" - Helphoto 2023




After Verena Andrea Prenner completed her degree in Sociology, she left for the Middle East. While living in Tel Aviv, she was granted funding for a project in the Palestinian West Bank.

Verena started looking for accommodation and received various offers in cities like Ramallah or Bethlehem and, by chance, one in a refugee camp. She accepted that one out of sociological interest and without much thought moved in to study life in the camp.

How did the precarious living conditions affect individuals? How was the community organized, what were its structures? And how did life there affect her personally, her behavior and views?

The daily rhythm was shaped by Muslim culture and religion, a life between haram and halal, what is forbidden and what is allowed. The individual leeway between these categories is minimal, esp. for women.

Moving into the camp as a single woman met with great surprise on the part of the inhabitants. Soon she was seen as an Israeli or Palestinian spy or as a debased woman. Countless visible and invisible eyes followed Verena whenever she left the house.

In June 2014, shortly after Verena moved in, the Gaza War started. Public life froze. Only military operations continued in the camp. Pain, misery and death were everywhere. During this time a strange bond with the camp community evolved. On the one hand, she still did not understand many cultural and social paradigms. On the other, she felt close to the community on an emotional level.

After months in the camp and two further stays in the following years, mutual trust slowly emerged. At some point Verena was no longer a stranger and she decided to realize a photographic project, not just outside the camp, but also within it.

Which raised the big question: What do you show?

Verena Andrea Prenner is an Austrian sociologist and artistic photographer who undertakes long-lasting sociological field research, e.g., in refugee camps in the Middle East, in Central Africa, or in the Viennese red-light district. In 2021, she received an Art Award from the State of Lower Austria for the artistic and cultural examination of human dignity. Artworks of hers can be found in the National Austrian Photo Collection, the Art Collection of the State of Lower Austria as well as Upper Austria, and in private collections. 

Verena Andrea Prenner (AT) "Camping" - Helphoto 2023
Verena Andrea Prenner (AT) "Camping" - Helphoto 2023