Samar Abu Alouf, a Palestinian photographer residing in the Gaza Strip. Her work is primarily focused On the Gaza Strip, given the issues that stem from her personal experience with gender, Women's and children's lives, and the consequences of the war. As of 2010 - 2012-2014, she has been working as an independent Photographer, assigned freelance photographer duties by Reuters and others.
Abu Alouf's main focus is on her ongoing project, "On the Life of Women in Gaza."
We celebrate International Women's Day with a series of pictures by Palestinian photographer Samar Abu Alouf, presenting women in Gaza. In the photos, Samar featured women wearing an almond branch wreath. We asked why, “They are the first plants to bloom, it means that the winter and the difficulties are over,” Samar explained. "They stand for bravery, they are the first flowers (after winter) that you see in the entire Middle East."
The latter highlights the lives of women in war and their displacement to schools, hospitals and the streets. Another recounts about Gaza women protesting with burning tires and smoke. And another project, In Gaza, Women walk a thin line between hope and despair.
Abu Elouf is an ICRC Fellow, and was invited by ICRC On World woman's Day in 2018 to speak at TEDx in Gaza. She was invited by the women's union committees at the Women Make a Difference conference in 2019, where she shared the stories which she documented during her work.
She documented all the events on the Gaza borders during 2018 and 2019 during the marches that were in that period for the benefit of Middle East Eye and others and working with Zuma Press Agency, and she covered all the events related to the Corona Virus COVID- 19 epidemic for the International Committee of the ICRC and many other agencies.
Abu Elouf is considered one of the few female photographers in Gaza. She has worked for many years alone as a female photographer in the Gaza Strip. She was forced to wear a cooker and a bag as an alternative to a shield and helmet when photographing events and marches on the Gaza border, due to the lack of protective equipment, so the Marie Colvin Foundation assisted her with a shield and helmet to keep her safe.
She worked during the 2021 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza as a photographer for the New York Times magazine, under very complicated circumstances where a child of her relatives was killed in one of the raids, and 14 members of the Abu Elouf family were killed in another bombing. She continued to work and document events, and she evacuated her home after the intensification of the raids in the neighborhood in which she lives.
However, she was able to document the war until the end.
Samar Abu Elouf is a courageous, 37-year-old Palestinian freelance photojournalist living in the Gaza Strip. She is the mother of four children and one of just very few women living in this tiny, blockaded and impoverished war-torn enclave who have sought a career in journalism, despite the daily hardships women face. She has worked professionally for nearly a decade, during which she also completed a university degree in journalism that has enabled her to also teach photography to the younger generations who wish to follow her career path. Her work has focused on numerous projects that give a voice to women like herself and navigate daily between a fine line of despair and hope.
I first met Samar while covering violent protests held along the Gaza Israel border in 2015. I was fortunate to have protective gear against the Israeli snipers that were hidden from view by the billowing toxic black clouds of smoke from burning tires and tear gas.
Samar, like most of the freelance Palestinian photographers and journalists, did not have protective gear because of the prohibitive cost and as such items are not available for purchase in Gaza. Her only protection at the time was the cooking pot she wore strapped to her head as an improvised helmet and a blue plastic garbage bag with the words “Press” taped to it that she wrapped around the middle of her body. She could only hope that Israeli forces would see her makeshift gear through the scopes of their weapons and identify her as a member of the media and not a protestor.
Samar felt compelled to prioritize her safety in order to continue covering the conflict and in 2016 she applied to the Marie Colvin Foundation that supplied her with a proper flak jacket and helmet.
In 2018, I often found myself together with Samar documenting the weekly violent March of Return protests held along the Gaza Israel. Just before the protests would start, many Palestinian colleagues prayed on the ground for the Friday noon prayer – and because they were so fearful that they could be wounded or killed while carrying out their duties. I often experienced difficulty sleeping the night before covering the protests especially after witnessing so many horrific leg injuries from Israeli live ammunition that often ended with limb amputations.
According to the UN, all told 214 Palestinians, including 46 children and two Palestinian journalists were killed. Over 36,100 were wounded, journalists also among them.
During the most recent 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas this May, Samar worked day and night on assignment for The New York Times. At one point she received a call from her crying children that a bomb hit their home. When she rushed home, she and her family had to evacuate their home after an Israeli missile struck their neighbor’s house and damaged the roof of her home. She quickly moved her children to safety with relatives but struggled with the thought that her own children could be under the rubble like the ones she had documented herself. One of her toughest emotional challenges was turning her lens on her own relatives who were killed. After photographing her own sister and cousins crying, embraced them and wept together mourning her own family’s tragedy. Samar focused her lens on the horrific impact on the civilians. Her images, both intimate and shocking, also capture and convey the dignity of her subjects.
One of her photographs shows an Israeli Mk-84 2,000-pound air-dropped bomb that did not explode in the middle of a bed in a Palestinian home. Other images show family members in the destruction of their homes and mourning dead relatives.
I have been covering the hardships of the Gaza Strip for over three decades and as the inaugural winner of the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award, I strongly support and stand proud to nominate Samar Abu Elouf. I believe she is an excellent candidate and well-deserving of this award. I have always been able to carry out my work knowing that if I wanted to or needed, I can leave Gaza for safety. But that’s not the case for Samar and her family who do not have the freedom of movement as I do. She is also dealing with the psychological impact of the violence on her own children which has been another battlefront for her as one of her daughter’s nearly fell into a deep depression because of the psychological impact of living with war that even reached their own home.
The Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award and support of the IWMF would make an immeasurable impact on her life, of her family financially, and on the global community of photojournalists by honoring her work with the prestige she has truly earned.
I know that Anja and her family would be proud to have Samar carry on Anja’s legacy.