When Q. Sakamaki’s photographs taken in Gaza after the 50 day war began to appear on his Instagram, a sense of reverence overcame me. What nightmares bring. The system of apartheid is unspeakable, and yet light must be shed. “The truth is on the side of the oppressed,” as Malcolm X said. Q. Sakamaki shares his work here, in images and words. I thank him for doing the work that hurts my soul.
Miss Rosen: Please talk about why you decided to go to Gaza at this time. As a photojournalist, what is the story that brought you to this devastated land?
Q. Sakamaki: First, this year marks 20th anniversary since I, at the first time, went to Gaza. And it is surely to assess and feel the aftermath of the summer’s 50-day war. Yet, The timing — I went to Gaza several weeks after the war – helps me see more freely and deeply what was happening, in the still fresh war devastated environments, through which I could view/ and or predict, about what is going on in future and what the international community should do.
Please talk about what you discovered upon arriving in Gaza? What were your expectations and how did the measure against the reality of life for the Palestinians ?
I expected the huge destruction. And it was really so. However, I was very surprised at children’s reaction or acts. Many children in Gaza have become very aggressive more than ever. They want to be paid attention, but if they don’t get, they often get violent. Or totally opposite: some get seemingly very depressed.
Can you talk the ways in which the Palestinian children express their aggression ?
If I ignore them, many children often turned their toy guns aggressively at me, sometimes firing the plastic bullets that often hurt people, if those hit on face. I’m also curious to know if you saw any distinctions between those who got aggressive, and those who got depressed (such as age of the children, the gender, etc). Boys in the middle teen are more likely to be aggressive than those in other ages and girls. Pre-teen or low teen girls are more likely to get depressed, compared to those in other ages and boys.
I was particularly struck by your photograph of “A Palestinian boy in Beach Camp” as it made me aware that this is not just photojournalism, it is history.
I am a more journalist, but in terms of photography, I am not the so-called photojournalist. Apart from that, I believe all captured moments are connected, related to the past and future, often very strongly and very importantly. By photographing such moments, I am exploring why human beings were born, why we love and/ or hate each other, and in the situations where we are heading. And, through photography, I want to share, or think together, with people to find those answers. Actually it is part of real core of Journalism.
What do you mean when you say you are a journalist but not a photojournalist ?
Photojournalist usually implies photographers who cover spot news in the style of the so-called news wire type of shooting. My style is in the visual and story base that often covers beyond/ or behind news. Also I don’t like to be defined by my photography—like photo documentary, or photojournalism, or personal or fine art. Each feature is always overlapped with others, and should be so, too. That is why I often feel I am not the so-called photojournalist. On the other hand, when I cover stories, especially for writing – most in Japanese, I try to check the details and facts of all related actors and elements as much as possible to be fair or not to have bias. In that way, I would be more journalist. Unfortunately, photography is very hard, or nearly impossible, to cover in the same way as that of writing, since by nature photographers have to face the subject in the shootable distance. In other words, I, as writer, feel more journalist, but as photographer, I feel less, or even not photojournalist.