Gaza series wins international photography prize

Ala Balata, 18, looks at photos of the members of his family who were killed in an Israeli attack, Jabaliya refugee camp, 20 September 2014. Ala, the only survivor of his family, lost his parents and 11 siblings.

Anne Paq

Anne Paq, a French photojournalist who has worked in Palestine for more than a decade, has been awarded a top prize in an international photography competition for her series documenting families affected by Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

Titled “Obliterated Families,” the multimedia project profiles 10 of the more than 140 families who lost three or more members during the 51-day bombardment.

Paq was in Gaza during the offensive, “photographing attack after attack, and countless bodies,” she told The Electronic Intifada last year.

“But it’s really hard in this situation to get to the stories of people. So for me it was important to go back,” she said.

Traces of people

“I started to have this impulse to go and interview, taking photos of the site of the attack,” she added. “Trying to find traces of the people, the clothes, photos of photos – which is a very important part of the project.”

With the assistance of Al-Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, she would visit 50 families.

Early iterations of the “Obliterated Families” project were published by The Electronic Intifada in January and July 2015.

It has since grown into a comprehensive web documentary produced by Paq and Ala Qandil, with the involvement of dozens of other media professionals, and is also available as a downloadable exhibition kit.

The project took first place in the editorial documentary category of the International Photographer of the Year for 2016. The prize was announced this week.

Back in Gaza

Paq, who told The Electronic Intifada that she was “honored and very moved to receive this award,” is back in Gaza after a two-year absence, working on a full-length documentary that “follows one of the families’ struggle for justice.”

“Since my last visit, not much changed,” she added. “True, some homes have been rebuilt, but the people are still broken.”

The years of isolation due to Israel’s decade-long siege and the trauma of repeated Israeli offensives, with no improvement on the horizon, have had a profound impact on Palestinians in Gaza.

“Many of my friends left, and the ones who stay, they are struggling,” Paq said. “How [do you] rebuild yourself when waiting for the next bombs? How can you mourn your loved ones if there is no justice?”

Paq hopes that “Obliterated Families” will “contribute to a better understanding of the situation in Gaza and fight the indifference” towards it.

After 10 years of siege, and a half-century of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Paq said, “Palestinians need much more than understanding, they need true solidarity in action.”

Paq and Qandil are planning a US tour for April. Groups interested in hosting presentations, screenings and exhibitions can contact them at info@obliteratedfamilies.com.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.