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Gaza Girls: Growing Up in the Gaza Strip

Monique Jaques' photographic study of youth growing up in a complex region

by David Graver
on 01 August 2017

For five years, photojournalist Monique Jaques repeatedly traveled to the Gaza Strip and captured compelling, personal images of those living there. It all began in 2004 when the American, who's based in Istanbul, documented an eight-day war between Israeli defense forces and Hamas. It soon expanded into a narrative outside of what's typically presented through the media. We regularly hear of the Gaza Strip in terms of war and isolation; Jaques instead captured the everyday lives of Palestinian girls and young women—the strength, joy and even normalcy of their lives. This work initially appeared in The New York Times but now Jaques—with the help of documentary photo essay publisher FotoEvidence—is hoping to turn it into a book. "Gaza Girls: Growing Up in the Gaza Strip" is up on Kickstarter now and it's structured around many photographic narratives—some bright, some unexpected and all hopeful.

Jaques notes that the 45-square-mile district's spatial constraints directly impact many of the young women and their paths. Multiple generations spring up atop one another and there's an exceptional closeness—that binds families beautifully while also limiting privacy. Among the stories she's hoping to share in the book, 25-year-old Hadeel Fawzy Abushar's struggles as a singer who wishes to perform in the West Bank both exemplifies the fortitude and strife embodied by those with ambitions beyond the Gaza borders. Sabah Abu Ghanem, only 14, surfs with her sister every day before school. There's a vibrance to her daily life that reflect sheer optimism and a universal exuberance.

"It was clearly difficult to edit down five years of work but we really wanted to distill images that represented this unique experience," Jaques explains to CH on her selection process. "To find photos that conveyed to the outside world what it's like to grow up in this insular world was a challenge but I feel like the book translates that well. We hope it's something you can give to anyone, in particular young girls, and tell them that this is what other girls around the world are growing up through." Jaques adds that it's not so much about the differences so much as the similarities that accompany these differences. And there's a certain power to that for sure.

"Gaza Girls: Growing Up in the Gaza Strip" is available for a $55 pledge on Kickstarter. If fully-funded, delivery is expected for January 2018.

Images courtesy of Monique Jaques

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