As soon as the renewed Israeli attacks started on the Gaza Strip on November 12, Mohammed Zaanoun, an award-winning photographer and member of the photo collective Activestills, rushed outside with his camera and once again documented the horrendous consequences on Israeli attacks; running between the locations of the bombings, the hospitals, and the funerals.
According to Al Mezan Human Rights center; 34 Palestinians were killed in three days, and another 82 people have been wounded. Seven houses, a turkey farm, and a carpentry workshop were completely destroyed, while 67 houses and 15 school buildings were also damaged. In that same period, hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel, causing no serious injuries.
The personal cost and trauma for the photographers who have documented such atrocities is rarely highlighted.
But Mohammed decided this time to reflect on the last three days and share his feelings in a long post that was published on his Facebook page:
“I think it is a dream, yet unfortunately, I wake up terrified of the bombardments. I browse the news on social media platforms. Then, I dress up and leave my home at 6 a.m. in a hurry. My dear mother says, “you will go to do your duty, yet I don’t want to hear any bad news, dear son. Beware! I don’t want to lose you.” I keep going to Al-Shifa’ Hospital, where I capture the pains of the injured.
Then, I head towards covering the destroyed homes. I also echo the anguish and pain of the bereaved, who lost their beloved parents and families. When the little girl sheds into tears, I believe that no word can describe the agony… I left the girl, and her face is engraved in my memory. Each time I behold the photos, I do imagine what if I lost a family member of mine.
Actually, it is such a big-bang scene that my heart is saddened with. I start capturing photos of the ongoing events. And the more the bombing is, the more martyrs die.
My fellow journalists and I used to capture pictures from a high building for the last three days. When I go again to Al-Shifa’ Hospital, I hear about the bombing of Ayyad Family in the Eastern Gaza. Surprisingly, the ambulances evacuate a great number of critically injured and martyrs. I behold a youngster that I barely dare to notice his bloodstained face.
At that moment, my mind bursts with memories of the latest aggressions that I have covered in 2008, 2012, and 2014. I return back home, reviewing the painful photos in my camera. And I do dare to hear women’s screams and children’s moans; I feel that I witness such scenes for the first time! Despite my enormous anguish, I make up my mind to publish the picture that goes viral online. I do believe that a photographer should have feelings towards photos, as many photos oblige us to cry. Gaza’s daily scene is depicted through martyrs, widows, orphans, and destroyed homes. I hope to live a decent life with no more tragic news. Finally, I really appreciate journalists and social media activists for conveying the suffering and hardship of the Gaza Strip.#gaza”
Mohammed’s work has been widely shared, and some of the photos he took over the last fews days went viral on social media. They inspired others, who took his photos and transformed them into art work.
Here are some examples:
Belal Khaled, a renown Palestinian artist from Gaza, now living in Turkey, transformed the photo of Fatma Abu al-Atta into a painting. Commenting the photo, Belal said, “The Israeli occupation killed her parents on her birthday. Fatma will no longer celebrate her birthday because Israel turned it into a massacre that she will remember every year.”
Elham Al Astal is an artist who lives in the Gaza Strip. She used Mohammed’s photo as an inspiration for a character in her last drawing.
She said about Mohammed’s photo: “It is a very deep image. It speaks a huge amount of pain and suffering, when a burning tear fell down from her eyes in silence. The silence here speaks louder than a million words that could be said or this girl cwould express.
The picture is very accurate and filled with emotions and it has a thousand meanings. For these reasons, I chose her to be one of the characters that I drew in my last painting.”
A piece by Amjad’ Abu Samarah, graphic designer from Gaza.
Dina is a Palestinian artist from Gaza living in Europe (family unnamed). When asked about what moved her from Mohammed’s photo, she said: “I’m an orphan as I lost my father and that’s why I could relate to that child who lost her father and her mother. The picture travelled worldwide, I found it everywhere and its message was very clear. The photographer was genuine when he took those photos from that angle and he could communicate the feeling to everyone who saw the picture. That’s why I drew that picture and embodied it in the spirit of humanity by highlighting the tear on her cheek.”
An art work by renown artist Alaa’ Alluqta from Gaza. He wrote on the piece the name of the teenager who was photographed: Fatma Abou Al-Ataa, during the goodbye to her martyr parents.
A montage made by Palestinian graphic designer Ahmad Alsaydawi, living in Gaza.
After having seen all the art works done inspired by his photos, Mohammed said: “I am very happy that the picture of the child crying spread, and that the Palestinian artists were so creative in drawing this photo that became iconic. The world needs to be moved by the true feelings and this picture expresses the true face of oppression and injustice. As a photojournalist, I took so many photos but there are pictures like this that remain in my memory.”