I nominate Fatima Shbair for the 2021 IWMF Anja Niedringhaus Photojournalism Award. Ms. Shbair, a Palestinian living in Gaza, has shown tremendous courage in the face of extreme circumstances.
Gaza, with limited opportunities for work, and even more limited opportunities for women, has been the sole place where Fatima has been able to photograph throughout her short career.
She has shown a remarkable talent for finding images that show a different side of Gaza.
Most recently, she covered the effects of the coronavirus for Getty Images, and made intimate photos of home life for its struggling residents. She shows, through powerful imagery, how lives have been affected by the extremely restricted access in Gaza. All of this has been the reality lived by Fatima as well, who also faces her own challenges as a female member of the press in a male-dominated industry.
After assigning Fatima to cover the first airstrikes, she continued to work round-the-clock for weeks covering the bombardments on Gaza, photographing grieving families, surveying the enormity of the damage, and finding intimate moments - that show her curiosity to go beyond the louder conflict images.
Her ability to gain close access is also evident in her photos, giving us a sense of just how close she was to the people whose stories she prioritized. Working under such stress is incredibly difficult for photojournalists, who must get up close to events and people. But even more so when one must live it and worry about their own family as well.
The images in this portfolio are of the recent conflict in Gaza, focusing on the civilian toll. In Fatima’s words: “11 days of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were enough to upset the balance of life here. Destruction spread, hospitals filled with the dead and funerals were hurriedly held. How can war turn [over] the life of a country in minutes?”
For Fatima, the challenges of working under bombardment, cannot be overstated. “One of the most difficult [things] while working in a war zone while you are a freelance photojournalist [is] you just go on knowing that you could be the next victim at any moment,” she said. “Since you are working alone, you strive to preserve your life in order to document and deliver the image.”
Fatima’s dedication has been made obvious to me in the last several weeks. She put her own safety at risk out of her drive to continue documenting the plight of civilians. I am impressed by the work she produced, especially as it was the first time she covered a conflict. Her work exemplifies that of a passionate, and professional photojournalist.
I truly believe the work she is producing follows in the spirit of Anja’s legacy. Fatima said “Anja… was known for her courage in the field, which is the way I strive to be as a photojournalist living in a conflict zone, seeking to document everything that happens around me. The most difficult thing is documenting what you are living.”
Staff Photographer - Getty Images News
Turkey, Middle East and North Africa