A Polaroid for a Refugee

39 images Created 2 Nov 2015

A Polaroid for a Refugee depicts points of transition in the lives of individual refugees. The Polaroids reflect the inner strength and dignity maintained by refugees during their long and harrowing journeys. For every Polaroid I take, I give one to the refugee as a reminder of the moment, and on the back is a simple statement: "Wherever your destination may be – tell me when you feel you have reached a safe place."This is a message of hope, which, sadly, for some may never be fulfilled.

In 2015, after months reading newspapers, watching television reports and listening to different opinions about the refugee crisis in Europe, I felt the urge, as a person, to go and witness it.

My aim was also to volunteer, to be able to understand and be close to the people involved.

Since October 2015, I have visited various locations including Preševo, Belgrade, (Serbia); Lesvos Island, Athens, Idomeni where the humanitarian need was most tangible, and Chios, an island located just a few kilometres from the Turkish coast (Greece).

On all of these occasions, I had my Polaroid Land Camera with me – and it was during my first trip that the A Polaroid for a Refugee project was born.

It is a project based on the concept of giving – giving something back to the refugees, a moment of their life and journey captured forever. In fact, everyone I photographed has a Polaroid picture now. I love the idea that they will look at those pictures one day in the future.

The portraits I took are very similar to family portraits, conveying a relaxed and carefree attitude that only scratches the surface of the refugees’ lives.Yet the value for the refugee is to have this moment of escape from the horrors of their daily lives and to carry a reminder of it with them on their onward journeys.

Everyone wanted their photograph taken, but for many different reasons. The young men loved to pose; the mothers wanted a picture to show their children when they’re older; and the kids just saw it as a bit of fun.

And for us who look at these images? We see a different side to the refugee crisis to the one we’re usually offered. We see these people just as people, not as victims or heroes, not as refugees to pity or as migrants to fear. They emerge as humans, resilient, thoughtful, joyful individuals.

Since August 2017 I started visiting families who arriving to their destination: Nariman and Dujnia in Germany; Mahbub in Switzerland; Fahima and Rohina in Austria. Fahima still has her Polaroid. She was lucky to be able to keep it all the way to Austria after crossing Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Hungary. Unfortunately, Rohina's Polaroid was confiscated together with all her belongings by the Hungarian authorities when she was allowed to enter Hungary.

Part II of APfaR has in its sight all the human rights connotations that Part I began. Eventually, we may see the two original Polaroids reunited in the place these refugees have chosen to rebuild their lives.
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