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Can’t Keep This Spirit Down: Meet Gaza’s First Female Photojournalist

 

By Eman Mohammed
By Eman Mohammed
By Eman Mohammed
By Eman Mohammed
By Eman Mohammed
By Eman Mohammed
Children of Khader's family having a buble bath in a tub over the ruble, after their house was totally destroyed with no remains but the bath tub, in Ezbet abed Rabo area northern Gaza strip ,3/06/2009
By Eman Mohammed
Palestinian children flying kites on the beach of Gaza during a UN-sponsored summer camp festival in the city on July 30, 2009. More than 6,000 children in the Gaza Strip sought to break the Guinness World Record for kite flying in a rare moment of respite from the war-battered enclave's daily life.
By Eman Mohammed
By Eman Mohammed
By Eman Mohammed
A Palestinian family--seen through an old Israeli security wire--walking by the beach of a former settlment at sunset time in Gaza City.
By Eman Mohammed

When the Gaza War started in the last days of 2008, Eman Mohammed was 19. At 26, she’s now not only Gaza’s first female photojournalist, but also one of its most riveting image-makers. Here she shares some turning points along her way.

You’ve faced so much adversity: what keeps you going in this vocation?

What keeps me going is mainly the importance of what’s going on. Whenever you feel so strongly about this kind of cause, it’s reflected in your images. And once they’re out and people give you feedback, it gives you great motivation to keep going, because they connect with photos more than with the news. It’s no longer news, it’s emotion, and in the long run it can change how people think about the third world and about these conflicts—and may inspire you to do something about it, to walk a mile in other people’s shoes.

Has your work been evolving towards more life-affirming stories?

Because war happens constantly in Gaza, the media became overloaded with miserable stories coming out of here–and the thing is, it’s not always miserable. So I wanted to show something that we all have in common.

Has becoming a mother changed how you see?

It doesn’t change you, it adds to you. It gives you more tenderness in the way you see news and people, and more emotional awareness. You become more sensitive to some things, like if you see a mother crying over her baby you immediately shift into her body and live her experience. It’s not that you try to imagine it; you don’t have to imagine because you’re already there.

What would you say to a young woman starting out in your field now?

I would tell any young woman who wanted to set foot in such a field that she should definitely trust that she has the right to be there, because I struggled with that a lot. Too many people are going to tell you that you’re not welcome, and it affects how you think about your work. But you do have the right to be there because of your career and motivation and message, and whatever comes genuinely from your heart.

For more information – www.emanmohammed.com/

 

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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