Ashraf Amra’s documentations of life in the Gaza Strip are one of the few channels into a nation whose people are often only seen for the conflict that has been ingrained into Palestinian culture. Not only in challenging this notion showing that Palestinians are not defined by a conflict through his reportages, but also through documenting the conflict in its many forms. 

With two decades behind him, he has been exposed to dangerous situations, restricted mobility outside of Gaza, and has been welcomed into Gaza’s countless communities. Part of IMAGO partner Zuma Wire, along with Anadolu News Agency, Agence France Presse, Al Jazeera, Associated Press and Reuters, he has been published in major news outlets like The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC, Der Spiegel and more. He has won international awards and lives in a constant battle to continue working in the precarious field of photojournalism amidst unfathomable geopolitical, humanitarian, military and religious obstacles in his way.

Amra is one of Gaza’s many local heroes, one could say – for this month’s series, IMAGO spoke to him about his career and what photojournalism means to him as a Gaza-native. 

See our previous feature with Ashraf Amra: Who are the Women of Gaza. 

“Photojournalism is very important because it carries a strong message that works to change reality from the worst to the best, convey people’s problems to the world, and play an important role in finding solutions to multiple crises.”

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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinian children read holy Koran in mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, in Khan Younis in the southern of Gaza Strip on April 7, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinian militants from the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement guard the border during the month of Ramadan in Beit Lahia in the northern of Gaza strip on April 21, 2022.

How did you get started with photojournalism?

I started my work in the profession of photojournalism 20 years ago, when I lived in the Deir al-Balah area, next to the Israeli barrier that separated the Gaza Strip into two parts. I was communicating with the old journalists when something happened near the checkpoint, and from here I met a number of those journalists who gave me a small camera to film the events next to the checkpoint.

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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Youssef Abu Amira, 24, practices para-Karate in a club, in Gaza City. January 25, 2021.

What do you hope to achieve with your photos? 

When I grew up, I became a journalist, working free-lance with many agencies and international newspapers, and I won a number of international and local awards in photojournalism. I have children and I have always always thought about how to protect them and provide for their needs.

My wish is that things will be in the best condition in the future. We, as freelance photographers, do not find anyone to support us if we are injured or suffer any losses because we do not belong to any particular means.

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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinians from al Amour family inspect the damage of their house following an Israeli artillery shell killed Donyana al Amour, in Khan Younis in the southern of Gaza strip on August 8, 2022.

What are some of your favourite subjects?

I traveled to several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon, to cover many events there, including the Arab revolutions, the Hajj season, and the four wars that the Gaza Strip was exposed to.

One of the most important topics that I like to photograph is daily life, beautiful scenery in Gaza and the countries I visited, because I believe they are pictures that inspire a positive spirit for those who watch and meditate on them.

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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinians enjoy their time on the beach of Deir al-Balah s sea, in the center of Gaza strip amid a hot day on June 10, 2022.

Why do you think photojournalism is important? 

It is imperative that we continue our work in order to convey human suffering everywhere, especially in the Gaza Strip, which suffers from the scourge of repeated wars, siege and poverty. Our message is sublime and objective.

Photojournalism is very important because it carries a strong message that works to change reality from the worst to the best, convey people’s problems to the world, and play an important role in finding solutions to multiple crises.

IMAGO/ZUMA Wire
IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Eid al-Fitr prayer celebrating the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in khan Younis in the southern of Gaza strip on May 02, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinians look out of a heavily damaged building in Gaza city on August 8, 2022, following a cease fire between Israel and Palestine.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinians enjoy their time on the beach of Deir al-Balah s sea, in the center of Gaza strip amid a hot day on June 10, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinians shop ahead of Eid al-Fitr holiday, celebrating the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan at a market, in Khan Younis in the southern of Gaza strip on May 01, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinians prepare sweet known in Arabic as Halkoum on April 25, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinian children play as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Khan Younis in the southern of Gaza strip on May 3, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinian bodybuilders take part in Physique and Bodybuilding competition organized by the Palestinian union of Bodybuilding and Fitness, in Gaza city on October 15, 2021.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinian amputees using crutches play a football match during a training organized by the Red Cross at Palestine Stadium in Gaza city, on December 2 2021.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | A dawn awakener al-Musaharati Nezar al-Dabbas walks through streets to wake up Muslims for a meal before sunrise during the fasting month of Ramadan, in Khan Younis, Gaza strip, on April 2, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinian children swim in a pool as they enjoy the warm weather on May 4, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Farmers collect watermelon during a harvest season in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 17, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinians visit the graves of their relatives at a cemetery during the first day of Eid al-Fitr holiday on May 2, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Flames and smoke rise during Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up of Israel-Palestinian violence, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 19, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | The bodies of eight Palestinians, including a child, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike last night on a house in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, were pulled out of the rubble, April 7, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | Palestinian children play as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr on May 3, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | A Palestinian high school female student, Raghad Abu Amer, 99.6%, celebrates with her family after heard the results of her final exams known as Tawjihi on July 30, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | A picture taken on August 1, 2021 shows Palestinian students attend their graduation ceremony at University College of Applied Sciences (UCAS), in Gaza City on August 1, 2021.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Ashraf Amra | A Palestinian man plays with fire crackers on New Year's Eve on the rubble of a building which was destroyed by Israeli air strike. December 31, 2021.
All photos by Ashraf Amra, interview by Sofia Bergmann as part of our Local Heroes series.