Subsistence: Gaza children and a horse make TIME’s 2012 list of most surprising photos

Yesterday I wrote about AFP photojournalist Marco Longari whose photographs from Syria, Palestine, and Egypt propelled him to be TIME’s pick for news photographer of the year. Today I write about TIME’s list of most surprising photographs of the year 2012.

Number 27 on the list comes straight to you from Gaza City. It is a photograph of three Palestinian children leaning against a concrete wall in a poor neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip. Spilled blood surrounds them and a horse’s head lies toward the center of the frame. Every three weeks, horses are slaughtered and their meat is distributed to Gaza’s poor, the caption reads.

The surprise factor likely has to do with the three children standing so near to the grisly scene. But so is the reality of some of Gaza’s family-run slaughterhouses. It is possible that the children belong to the butcher and are watching their father do work. Or, these children might have been sent by their families to pick up some meat for dinner. Or maybe the surprise comes from the idea of eating horse which is legally prohibited in Gaza and is still a rare thing to see.

Whichever it is, I urge you not to look at the photograph with depressed or sorrowful eyes but to find interest in it. There’s no right way to ‘read’ a photograph but I hope the experience that comes with this one is more of a genuine intrigue than of anything else. Lifestyles are different around the world, and so are standards of living. What this image shows is that even in the face of occupation and siege, Gazans — young and old — are subsistent.

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