Last April, photojournalist Monique Jaques’ exhibition “Gaza Girls: growing up in the Gaza strip”, dressed up Lisbon’s streets with pictures. The photographer gave us some time before leaving the hotel to answer several questions posed by GatRooms’ team.
Monique Jaques is a Brazilian American photojournalist based in Istanbul, Turkey. Her work focuses on the representation of women through documentary-photography and video, while framing women’s stories differently. That is to say, portraying daily lifes of women in Gaza who sing, surf and who are figuring out how they want to grow up.
What did you aim to achieve with this work you are showing in Lisbon, “Gaza girls growing up in the Gaza strip”?
I first went to Gaza in 2012, just to cover the war and to see what was going on. And there were two things I realized with the images I was seeing as someone who was outside: they were all of violence and of men.
But, when I was there, I was also seeing different people living, like girls, and I felt this was not represented. So, I started this project to show that more things are happening in this place other than violence. For instance, girls are figuring out how they want to grow up and who they want to be.
What called your attention the most in Gaza?
This was something I saw that was not shown anywhere. And I did a lot of research! I just couldn’t find this sort of stories. So, I started talking to a lot of other girls and, at first, they didn’t understand what I was doing, they were saying they were not special nor unique.
First of all, everyone is special and everyone’s story deserves to be told and to be heard. These are daily lives and are very important. They finally got the sense when they saw the work, and they really responded to it and appreciated that I had been there for so long.
What is it in your images that breaks up more stereotypes about women in the Middle East?
I think, the fact of showing images of women in the Middle East that aren’t completely covered and sitting at home, is really important to everyone. When people think about the Middle East they often think at this one thing, and I am trying to show that it is not true: they surf, they sing, they have friends and they live lives that are very much like yours and mine, they just have a different religion.
There are many goals with the work I have been doing, but one of them is to create a greater understanding of what the Middle East is. I am trying to say that it is a very complicated place, where things are very different to our reality, but there are girls breaking up the boundaries, and surfing and doing all sort of things.
At what point did you decide to focus your work on representation of women?
I felt women are very underrepresented in the media, unfortunately a lot of storytellers are men and often they tell stories about men.
And you wanted to change the pattern.
Generally, I did a lot of stories about women that do things a little bit different. A lot of my work is about stories that aren’t heard in the news and things that aren’t been consumed all the time. It is about portraying things that are happening all the time and no one pays attention to it.