Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 25, 2014

Gaza Riding Club: The Effect of Seeing Palestinians Better Off

If you remember this year’s World Press awards, I was impressed with a body of work by Jordanian photographer Tanya Habjouqa that captured Palestinian life in a more everyday way, especially the life of women and girls.

In another photo story — this one by photographer Monique Jacques in The New York Times this past week — the trend continues. Out of the 14 pictures in “Female in Gaza,” however, this one particularly stands out. The caption states:

A girl completed a jump at Al-Faisal Riding Club in northern Gaza. Horses are brought in from Egypt and are well cared for by elite families.

If pictures of Gaza in the Western media mostly bring to mind violence and squalor, this photo obviously confounds the regular diet of blown out buildings, checkpoints and clashes with the IDF. It’s even more distinctive in light of facts and statistics with the Gazans pinned down not only physically and economically, but struggling under 39% poverty, 44% food insecurity, and 28% unemployment–58% for the young and 53% for women.

When you search out information about these Northern Gaza equestrian clubs, such as Jabaliya or Al-Faisa (this from less missile-weary 2010), you discover there’s not much available. Knowing they operate under the scrutiny of Hamas and have had to resort to bringing in horses through smuggling tunnels still leaves it bound up with politics. But the larger point of the photo — as emphasized by the Gazan females captured in an opinion piece by the photograper — is one of empowerment.

What I’m tempted to say is that, when a hyper–capitalist and status conscious society like America looks at Gaza, the fact some Palestinians also own horses and spend time in riding clubs holds a special power. In this case, add the empowerment of girls with western class connotations of equestrian programs and suddenly the Gazans look a lot more relatable.

(photo: Monique Jaques)

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