Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Syrian Migrant + Animal Shed, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 1998

Her portrait goes back to the beginning, when the power of photography began to show itself to me. This was the first year I returned with prints in my hands for the people. Their reactions taught me a lot about keeping one's promises, about the importance of a photograph.

This young woman's name is etched in my mind, almost 18 years later. Her name was and is Zahia, and this was the last time she would be in my presence. Is she living in Lebanon or Syria now? Is she safe regardless?

When we made this photograph an animal shed was in place. A few years later the animal shed had been torn down and a family has erected a tent in its place. The field in the background is still there to this day.

She might have remained in the camp, but since her age prohibited me from interacting with her, I would have never known if she was one of the young women stepping down from the trucks as they returned from working in the fields, with fabrics covering their faces.

Some would smile at me in a familiar way, making me think 'is that her?'

Regardless I have this timeless portrait of her, when she was able to face the world uncovered and with such a smile. This is the image I will always remember of Zahia, and I hope she thinks of this more innocent time now and then.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 501CM/80 mm combination.

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