Our team members understood going in that it was their job to capture in words, video and photographs, the stories of the refugees who were living or stranded in Greece. All of this is difficult and meaningful work, but the task of the photographer is a special one. He or she must create a different sort of intimacy with a subject in order to capture a story. To see the world through a lens – and then afterward, to pore over it in closeup detail – is to experience its characters in a way that is lasting, indelible, unforgettable. It wasn’t easy on them, and the impacts linger. But as will be obvious from their personal essays, attached below to slideshows of their visits to refugee camps or apartments, they did their jobs to bear witness on behalf of those whose stories needed to be told.

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Elpida Home, by Sydne Mass

The Elpida refugee residence was a delight to visit and photograph. Our guide Dina was a wealth of knowledge on everything regarding the refugee crisis and how it has been affecting Greece over recent years. The reason why Elpida was so pleasant to photograph was due to the abundance of art that covered its walls. In an effort to make living conditions more enjoyable within the structure of a refurbished textile factory, artists are constantly being called in to add murals and paintings on almost every surface. I love photographing art, especially street art or murals, because it lives beyond the confines of a canvas and truly stands out on its own. Inside, a lot of the art was painted by residents themselves, and though I wasn’t allowed to photograph any of the people, being able to take in their paintings was a different way of getting to know them. It immediately felt important to me to try and convey the sense of joy there. Of course, conditions were not ideal, and for many, this was a place of transit, where refugees faced an uncertain future, but the structure itself seemed to lighten things up.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO MOSIAC BELOW TO READ SYDNE’S CAPTIONS AND SEE HER PHOTOS IN FULL SIZE.

 


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The Almahmod Apartment, by Bridget Peery

I was moved by how welcoming and open the Almahmods were on our visit. A family of eight, six children from as young as a few months to 10 years old, had been through so much before landing in Greece. After multiple camps and two different countries, they were miraculously all together. Their parents, like any parents, only wanted the best for their children, to go to school, to be happy. While Paxtyn, Gwen, and Danny interviewed their father, I followed the children into the other room. They invited me to play, posed for pictures, laughed and giggled when I showed them what the images looked like. But it was a difficult story to photograph. I wanted to capture those happy moments as they happened but I couldn’t ignore the reality of their situation. There is a photograph in which they are all sitting together, playing games on the floor because there was no furniture in the room except for one chair. These were sweet, smart kids who were no different than any children anywhere in the world. The only difference was they were born in a country where violence that had nothing to do with them forced them out. Photographing this family made me realize how important it is to tell their story and other families like them, caught in limbo and often misunderstood. Even still, they were hopeful for the future. They are why this work is important and that is something that will stay with me always.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO MOSIAC BELOW TO READ BRIDGET’S CAPTIONS AND SEE HER PHOTOS IN FULL SIZE.

 


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Softex Camp, by Sydne Mass

Going to the Softex refugee camp came as a surprise to me as everything happened quickly and organizing the visit was sudden. I remember getting off the bus from another location with only half an hour to spare before leaving for the assignment. I needed to charge my camera, empty my memory card and have lunch – I was nervous. This was the first official refugee camp I visited and although I knew, embarking on this trip, that I would go to one, I still wanted to be better prepared. Softex housed mostly single men and some families living in repurposed container boxes with no running water. The conditions were rough and the atmosphere tense. Looking back at how I felt seems naive now. I worried about safety, about access, about trusting our facilitator Alix, whom I had never met. But things never go quite as expected or quite as feared. We met a multitude of people who invited us into their temporary homes. A family of six let us sit with them for an interview and fed us an abundance of fruit. I spent the entire afternoon viewing everything through the lens of my camera and the frame always filled itself naturally. In photojournalism there is no such thing as posing a shot, it only matters to freeze a conveying instance – and those seemed to constantly be taking place right in front of me. I played with children who proved to me once more than they are the most resilient beings. I watched a man make falafel at a makeshift cafe. And I left feeling tired but grateful at having been able to see this with my own eyes and capture it with my own camera.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO MOSIAC BELOW TO READ SYDNE’S CAPTIONS AND SEE HER PHOTOS IN FULL SIZE.

 


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The Island of Chios, by Suma Hussien

It was never easy to click the shutter or press record when covering the refugee crisis. What made it easier was the decision to focus in on the resilience of the courageous people who have fled unimaginable situations. In the face of adversity, trauma and tragedy, I witnessed refugees who wake up every day to bring compassion and humanity to a situation that still does not seem to have an end in sight. Our interpreter on the island of Chios, also a Syrian refugee, graciously helped us conduct our interviews even with the risk of losing her job. The men at Chios’ People’s Kitchen work tirelessly to bring food to the refugee community despite resistance from Greek authorities. On the mainland, while working with Drop in the Ocean’s language cafe, I observed an extreme persistence in the refugees who sought to learn Norwegian before their relocation to a new, drastically different country, Norway. I met a young boy, an unaccompanied minor who left Afghanistan at 15, who told me he has also been taking care of another young refugee boy of 10 years old. I witnessed these examples of resilience countless times during my five weeks visually documenting the refugee crisis. I am so grateful to have been able to share a sense of intimacy in the gathering of testimonies from refugees both in photo and video. And while the urgency to record truth of the tragedy is important, I believe it is critical for the world to witness the humanity, the individual stories beyond the numbers.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO MOSIAC BELOW TO READ SUMA’S CAPTIONS AND SEE HER PHOTOS IN FULL SIZE

 


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The Shosha Apartment, by Sydne Mass

After visiting Softex, our translator invited us to visit a family who used to live in the camp but had been relocated to an apartment in Thessaloniki. Three of the four children had accompanied us to the camp and 11-year-old Joudi and 17-year-old Rama had asked us to visit them soon. We arrived in front of their building to find a breathtaking view of the city as the sun started to set and the light turned golden. Moments like those alleviate some of the worries of work, so we paused. Inside, we went to a floor below ground. The view disappeared and the prospect of using it as a backdrop for pictures went with it. Once inside, after a turbulent welcome, we sat and waited. The mother, and head of the household, was cooking. Ramadan was set to begin the following day and preparations were underway. Since the apartment was small, it was quick to photograph, but there is always more to show than the layout of a room. Having the freedom not to take notes allowed me to hear different stories from what was being told from Joudi and Rama. After a very busy few days, it felt wholesome to be able to spend time documenting this family. More than anything, this made me realize how much photojournalism does not feel like a job to me. Rather, it is a window into different aspects of life that would normally be hidden from sight.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO MOSIAC BELOW TO READ SYDNE’S CAPTIONS AND SEE HER PHOTOS IN FULL SIZE.

 


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The Oinofyta Camp, by Bradley Fargo

There is a smattering of Pakistani people as well as Iranians, but for the most part Oinofyta Camp is a place for Afghan refugees. The several hundred residents of the camp are people with families, and children are being raised here. It’s not an ideal situation. The camp does not live up to the hopes that people hold of Europe. But for many it is better than anywhere else they can go. Hearing the stories of these people was sobering. Hardship was endured and hardship was escaped from. Every person in Oinofyta came from somewhere. But now they’re in Greece, a country in crisis – where jobs cannot be found for natives let alone refugees. But these people are finding a way to live. The art in the camp was striking. Walls usually had something to decorate them, though far from every surface was covered. These painted words and flowers lent the place a different feel – something akin to a downtrodden elementary school. Abdulla is an 18 year old who I spotted writing in a notebook during our visit. I don’t know what he was writing. I wanted to know. I still want to know. Our de facto translator helped us talk to him, and he gave us some of his story, but there is clearly so much more to tell—more that this person has seen. But that stuff isn’t really the important story. That’s what I think. The real story is where these people are now – where they are going. People live in Oinofyta right now. It’s unclear what the future of this place will be, but for now it is an uncomfortable home. People’s lives are playing out here. Life doesn’t stop. Humanity doesn’t stop. It’s important.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO MOSIAC BELOW TO READ BRADLEY’S CAPTIONS AND SEE HIS PHOTOS IN FULL SIZE.

 

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