© All Images: Eman Mohammed
I love taking pictures. I love the way a single image really can say 1000 words. I love the way a photograph can trigger emotion. I have considered photography as a career, and in doing so have faced countless attempts of dissuasion by people who tell me, “Photojournalism is such a impracticable profession”, “Why would you want to do something like that, have you heard of the danger photojournalists face?” and even “Didn’t one of you get beheaded recently?” Some of these comments may be true, but I take them in stride and continue to make pictures, as do many of the brave photojournalists in the field today.
Why do I do this? Well, because the reality of it is, even if I do pursue photography as a career, I probably will never face any of those things that those so-called-analysts are talking about. Nonetheless, just because I won’t have to take pictures of war-zones and face danger on a daily basis because of the simple fact that I have a camera in my hand does not mean that there are not people out there who do.
One of those people is Eman Mohammed. At the age of 19, Mouhammed became not just the first, but the only female photojournalist based in Gaza. Breaking cultural taboos that surrounded women’s roles, Mohammed dove into the perils of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and pursued the shutter. If dodging bombs and bullets wasn’t enough, Mohammed some how managed to battle professional bias and sexual harassment from male colleagues as well.
In her recent TED Blog interview, Mohammed eloquently puts into picture the inspiration she gathers from childhood and being raised by a single mother. Nowadays, especially in America, coming from a single-parent household is not all that uncommon. However, in Gaza, being a divorced woman raising your children alone is an unknown thing. Most divorced women leave their children with the paternal side, but if they don’t, they are unable to remarry—by law. Mohammed tells more about being a divorced woman in such a traditional society, “…divorced women are despised—or neglected, or the black sheep in the community—one way or another” she said.
Mohammed’s mother raised them as gypsies of sorts—they traveled all around Eastern Europe and the Middle East where Mohammed learned English and learned much of what she still carries with her today.
To conclude her nomadic childhood, Mohammed attended the Islamic University of Gaza—a top educational institution that is owned and operated by Hamas. However, she didn’t study photography there, it wasn’t even offered as a subject. So, she took it upon herself to get internships at the local news agencies and was eventually hired by a secular firm that ironically had an Islamic Jihad as their editor.
She talks about the hardships she faced on her journey to become a field photographer. The problems are deep rooted in culture, but that is not to say it has anything to do with Islamic culture. Mohammed points out that it is important to note that in Islam so long as a woman’s work does not go against any modesty rules, her profession is accepted. Even so, in the modest culture—it’s a problem. Once her boss started noticing these problems, he took the broken camera he had given her (which she later fixed) away and told her she could no longer photograph. So, Mohammed did what any other oppressed photojournalist would do, and quit.
We’re a strong-headed breed.
Did I mention the war yet? Oh right, well three weeks after she quit her job the war started—Israel began air strikes on the whole Gaza Strip. Mohammed tells of a day when tensions were high in her workplace because of the conflict and ultimately lead to her being sexually harassed by a chief photographer. Or another day when she was left in the middle of a strike zone by her colleagues as an intentional prank.
Or how about the day where the straw broke the camel’s back, or nose for that matter? One day, fed up from the cruelty she was experiencing amongst her colleagues, Mohammed decided to break off from the group, and ended up near an air strike, so close that her camera bounced off her face, breaking her nose. That was the day Mohammed decided to freelance. Imagine that.
She is now a regular contributor for The Washington Post, Le Monde, Getty Images, and The Guardian. She is also working on several of her own long-term projects, with an aim at further photographing the aftermath of the war.
She is also a mother, or Superwoman… I can’t really tell.
Be amazed at her work by clicking here.
Click here to read the entire TED Blog interview.