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"The Gaza Strip has become synonymous with protracted war and conflict. With only one reliable way to enter, through Israel, movement in and out of the Strip is wholly controlled and very limited, essentially isolating the entire Strip and its occupants from the rest of the world. 

A few days before I captured this image, I wasn’t even confident I'd be able to enter the Gaza Strip. The area I was headed for had been heavily hit by rocket strikes. At that time, my team informed me that it might not be safe for me to go ahead. Situations like this are all we hear about in the news, serving as a visceral reminder that the conflict persists. That is why I love this picture so much: it symbolizes the other Gaza. The one that I know and love, the one we don’t see on television or read about in the news.

I took this picture at the Great Omari Mosque, located in Gaza’s old city. It is the largest and oldest mosque in the Gaza Strip. As I walked into its courtyard, this young boy and his friend were running around, playing and giggling. It was a scene of joy and blissful youth, similar to what you’d find at any park in Paris or playground in New York. 

As I quietly lifted up my Leica Sofort to take the photo, the young boy froze perfectly still – like a seasoned actor – allowing me to capture the moment. Immediately after I snapped the shot, he flashed me a broad smile and laughed loudly, before continuing to play, otherwise unaffected by my presence. 

His reaction was representative of my treatment throughout the Strip. I never once felt unwelcome or unwanted during my time there. And these genuine, human moments of connection are what I want people to think about when they hear the word ‘Gaza’. When we think about conflict zones, we are typically referring to the macrodynamic of a situation, and it’s easy to lose sight of the actual people involved: real people, who are living their daily lives within these areas. 

The work I do focuses on helping these people. I am not a politician, and I have no plans to become one. But one thing I do believe, is this: the opportunities of children should not be dictated or predetermined by where they are born. I want to find a way where all kids have the opportunity to pursue a happy and healthy life. When you hear the word Gaza I want you to think of this picture. I want you to think of this kid, born in a war-zone, and say to yourself, How can I contribute to giving him a chance at a better life?

The image is part of a series being presented in collaboration with LFI.

Photo: © Daniel Dart
Equipment: Leica Sofort
© Daniel Dart

Daniel Dart

Daniel Dart is an artist, activist, filmmaker and photographer. His journey took a sharp turn when he was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to six years in prison, after which he filed for and won an appeal, reducing his sentence by two years. Shortly after being released, Daniel launched DEC Artists – a media firm aiming to change the way people engage with the world. His journey as a formerly incarcerated individual shows how critical second chances can be, and why he works so hard to provide them for all people, regardless of their past.

Daniel Dart is based in Los Angeles, but works primarily in the Middle East. He is currently working on a project with LFI and the United Nations Refugee Agency, which is set to be exhibited sometime in 2019.

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