Thursday, February 4, 2016

Release, Syrian Migrant, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2005

While she certainly has never asked to be, for me hers is the face of the current refugee crisis. Two years before the war ravaged this land, her family lived as migrants in Lebanon, hundreds of miles away from her beloved city of Halab. In this cruel setting she is able to portray her joy to us, her sense of hope.

During my visits to these camps, the children's faces were charred from the sun and the wind, while their hair had the consistency of cotton candy. They played in the dirt paths between the tents, sometimes running dangerously close to the streets nearby. Every once in a while a child would be struck by a speeding motorist, the communities shared with me, while local authorities treated such incidents as inconsequential. These brave faces lived on the outskirts of the surrounding society, performing their duties unseen in order to help support their families back home.

For those of us with children, can we imagine for one second our child's face with such scars? Can we imagine the hair on our children's heads having such a consistency? Can we imagine the clothes on our children's backs so fragile, so stained? Can we for one moment endure the dryness of their skin, dirt near their lips?

Yet these children do more than endure, do much more than survive. While there is little doubt that the cruel world has dealt them a hard set of circumstances, they refuse to give up. The boys do what they can with the tools around them, taking for example a long wire and fixing a cylinder to its end as a toy. The girls take flowers from the gardens in front of their tents and adorn themselves, playing with stuffed pieces of cloth as others would do with dolls. While their physical world is limited, they have shown me that their imaginations cannot be restrained.

Note: Images made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm lens combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

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