Documenting Israel’s military assault on Gaza last summer, I witnessed what can only be called atrocities: hospitals and morgues, overwhelmed by the constant flow of casualties; nights of terror under widespread and indiscriminate bombing; attacks on hospitals, ambulances and United Nations schools used as shelters; entire neighborhoods destroyed.
Of all the horrifying statistics, one is particularly shocking: 142 families lost three members or more in single Israeli strikes. I started the project #ObliteratedFamilies — now available for download and exhibitioning all over the world — to document such loss. It began as a project about the victims, but soon became also a project about the survivors. How can one cope with loss on this scale?
With the support of the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan, I met more than 50 families profoundly affected by Israel’s deadly attacks. I have never been exposed to such pain. Months after the end of the attacks, many Palestinians I met were still traumatized and in deep grief. Many also expressed their doubt of any prospect for justice for the crimes committed against their loved ones.
Some broke down and cried during our interview, others expressed their anger or were still in shock and unable to comprehend what had happened to them.
When I visited the homes of these mourning families, the memory of their lost kin was always present, though in varying ways. In some homes, their photos were displayed atop TV sets or on the walls. Sometimes, the victims’ clothes and belongings were as they left them, months after their death, as if they would soon return. In other homes, family members constantly looked at photos and videos of their loved ones on their mobile phones.
This collection of photographs contributes to the effort to remember Gaza’s victims, and to promote the calls for justice of the survivors.
Anne Paq is a French freelance photographer and member of the photography collective ActiveStills.