When we arrived to the largest camp, just so happened to be our first camp last November, my brother Asrar told me to get out of the car, walk down into the camp, set my camera up and be ready to photograph the most incredible faces. With little hesitation I did as he asked, and set my gear up while dozens and dozens of people started gathering around me.
A few minutes later he met me in the center of the camp, and asked: 'which face would you like?' I told him that I would describe the clothes of the person without pointing, and that he would slowly look their way without much notice and then ask them to come forward. We did this so as to maintain a calm atmosphere, for this community had just a few months earlier escaped incredible hardships in their hometown.
What amazed me the most was that the men allowed us to photograph the girls. They helped us actually, and supported our work for the next hour. One by one I described the colors of their fabrics, and one by one the girls stepped up to the camera. They broke many barriers in doing so, from gender to societal. In front of dozens of men and boys, they held their own for as much as five minutes in front of the lens. This affected me almost as much as the circumstances behind their present state of life.
Just as we were almost finished photographing the young girls, the older women stepped up and wanted to be photographed. This detail Asrar shared with me, thinking that perhaps I was finished for the afternoon. I responded with much enthusiasm, thinking that the women would never allow me to photograph them. I was so wrong, and happily so.
We photographed five or six women, with this portrait being one example. Their presence in front of the camera inspired me deeply, and I hoped at the time that the younger girls were watching intently. I tried to imagine these women as young girls, how their lives must have been, what they had experienced months earlier in their villages and how they are going to put the pieces back together for the sake of their families all over again just now.
In March I look forward to visiting the camps once again with Asrar, and hope that the temporary housing has been transformed to more permanent structures, that toilets have been constructed and that a school has begun for the children.
Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.
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