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A Photojournalist's Work in Gaza

Gaza Strip

Photos by Samar Abu Elouf. Text by Lauren Walsh

Published February 2024

The headlines have captured the world’s attention. The photographs are starkly painful to view. But view them we must; they are important to see. Such images belong to a long history of terrible yet historically significant photographs—images of atrocity and devastation. In short, these are images that force the world to grapple with human suffering, even when politics and ideologies may get in the way. Such imagery provides a visual, evidentiary record, in this case of the ongoing destruction of the Israel-Hamas war.

Now, four months into the war, well over 25,000 people have been killed (primarily civilians), two million Palestinians are internally displaced in Gaza, a genocide case against Israel is underway at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, and attacks in nearby countries pose the risk of escalating wider regional warfare.

While the future remains uncertain, the searing images compiled here bear witness to what has already occurred. Samar Abu Elouf, a freelance photojournalist, documented the war’s effects in Gaza in the months after the October 7, 2023 Hamas attack. Her images were viewed globally, published in the New York Times and picked up elsewhere. She holds multiple journalism awards and the above photographs display what she witnessed and recorded in late 2023. As she said in November of that year: “There are constant strikes around me. There is fear, horror, anxiety.”

The dangers of reporting on, including photographing, conflict have been well documented. Yet Sherif Mansour, the Middle East program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has characterized the Israel-Hamas war as “the most dangerous” for journalists that the organization has ever seen. Such risks affect not only the local journalist population but carry impact for a broader global audience. As Mansour notes, “With every journalist killed, we lose our ability to document and understand the war.”

Samar Abu Elouf has done that work – documenting in order to increase our understanding. She recently escaped Gaza. She has survived physically; she carries wounds internally. Her photographs, seen here, provide necessary if painful records, in hopes of a better, more just, more peaceful tomorrow.


Editor’s Note: The photos presented here in ZEKE by Samar Abu Elouf were taken while on assignment for The New York Times. Each of these images has already been seen by a global audience in numerous publications. We are very grateful to Samar for giving ZEKE permission to present them here.

Samar Abu Elouf

Samar Abu Elouf is an award-winning Palestinian photographer who has worked extensively in the Gaza Strip. She has covered many events in Gaza, including stories around gender, women’s and children’s lives, and the consequences of war. Since 2010, she has worked as a freelance photojournalist on assignment for outlets such as Reuters, The New York Times, NZZ Swiss Magazine, and others.

Samar works with ZUMA Press to cover stories related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other agencies. In May 2021, she worked on assignment for The New York Times to cover the 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas that destroyed essential infrastructure and killed more than 230 people, including several of her own relatives. Her images, both intimate and shocking, capture and convey the dignity of her subjects. One of her photos shows a 2,000-pound bomb that did not explode on a bed in a Palestinian home. Other images show family members in the destruction of their homes and mourning dead relatives.

Since the October 7, 2023 attacks by Hamas on Israel, Samar continued to work in Gaza for The New York Times covering the destruction and human casualties caused by Israeli bombs, artillery, and ground forces.

Samar has received mentorship and training in visual storytelling through World Press Photo, RAWIA, Noor Images and the Arab Documentary Photography Program, an initiative supported by a partnership between the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, the Prince Claus Fund, and Magnum Foundation.

Portions of this biography are from the Online Journalism Awards.

Lauren Walsh

Lauren Walsh is a professor at New York University and Founder and Director of the Gallatin Photojournalism Intensive. She is the author of Conversations on Conflict Photography (2019) and Through the Lens: The Pandemic and Black Lives Matter (2022), co-author of Shadow of Memory (2021) on the Bosnian War, and editor of Macondo: Memories of the Colombian Conflict (2017), among other titles. She is a leading expert on the visual coverage of conflict and crisis, as well as peace journalism. In 2023, she was named a Fulbright Specialist in Photography and Ethics.

Follow Samar Abu Elouf on Instagram.

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