TO FEB. 28

“Conversations Through Photography”—a collection of documentary work by 10 Palestinian and Israeli artists—is an uneven lot, and it focuses more intensively on Palestinian life than Israeli. But at its best, the show eloquently crystallizes the tensions and sorrows of the Middle East’s most divided patch of real estate. Images taken by Israeli-born Rina Castelnuovo inside a Palestinian portrait studio are tragically compelling; not only do masked gunmen pose in front of incongruously cheery backdrops, but young children flock there to have their own warlike snapshots taken, so that their parents will have a martyr photograph (pictured) if they are killed by gunfire. Another Castelnuovo series features kids diving into water that, because of poor infrastructure, is covered with a thin film of brilliantly green algae. They are images that offer a dizzying cocktail of aesthetic beauty, childlike glee, and moral outrage. Nazareth-born Noel Jabbour documents refugees whose obvious deprivation contrasts strongly with the dazzling color in their lives, and Nitzan Makover of Tel Aviv breaks stereotypes by photographing successful Palestinian career women, each of them steely-eyed and exhibited in a closely cropped format, suggesting that they, and no one else, got them to their place in life. The show’s saddest pictures are Osama Silwadi’s, which chronicle cross-cultural peace efforts, including the tender image of a Palestinian bus rider falling asleep on her Israeli seatmate’s shoulder. The images all date from before 1999. The exhibition is on view from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and Monday to Thursday; and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, to Thursday, Feb. 28, at American University’s Watkins Gallery, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. (202) 885-1670. (Louis Jacobson)