Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Migrant Workers, Syrians living in Lebanon, Bekaa Valley near Zahle, Lebanon, August, 2010

We make a portrait inside of their home on this day, with one flap of the tent open to the right allowing light to enter. Outside the view of the public and to the side of their mother, two sisters share expressions otherwise rare in this reserved society.

They live as migrant workers, traveling from Syria to Lebanon for work. These young girls go to the fields a few times per week to harvest vegetables for twelve hours in the hot sun, dressed in three to four layers of clothing as is customary. They return to their homes only to find more work, from collecting water to washing clothes to cleaning the home to helping their mothers with dinner.

The man in charge of this camp is my friend and finds work for these families. He keeps a detailed log of each worker and their salary. As of last year and depending on the type of work being done, an average young girl will earn perhaps $5 per day.

After fourteen years with these children,  my senses have yet to become desensitized to certain details, from the coarseness of their hands to the cracked nature of their skin to their parched lips. Whenever the hair is exposed as in the younger girls, it lacks a softness normally associated with youth and is soiled with the dust and particles from the environment.

These two sisters have been present in my work since its inception. They have distinctive personalities, sharing the trait of shyness regardless. The young girl with her arms crossed to the right of her mother is a bit more reserved and cooperative, always accepting my invitation to be photographed. Her sister has been photographed extensively by me and as such perhaps is a bit more hesitant in being photographed. She nonetheless accepts in the end, with a bit of pleading from me.

They both have light eye colors, and wonderfully full hair. I have photographed both of them with their hair uncovered and covered.

Sometimes we miss each other, and they return from the fields with a sense of sadness in having missed the fun of being photographed. We always find a time however to collaborate on a different day, and their happiness is restored at least with respect to me. The day will come when they will no longer accept my invitation to be photographed. At first it will be with a sense of pride in joining their older sisters in this reserved culture. Then it will be with a bit of nostalgic sadness, and this will lead perhaps to their acceptance as it has with some of these very same older sisters.

I miss them very much, this family of women living near my mother's hometown.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography