Last December, German photographer Kevin McElvaney traveled through Izmir, Turkey; Lesbos, Athens and Idomeni, Greece; three popular areas filled with migrants and refugees looking for passage to Western Europe. Instead of photographing the plight of the refugees as many others have in the past few years, McElvaney took a different approach. McElvaney put the cameras in the hands of the refugees themselves for a first-person, rarely seen, intimate look at their journey across Europe.
Giving out 15 disposable cameras to refugee families along with waterproof, prepared envelopes addressed to McElvaney’s German home, he asked them to document their journey and mail back the camera. McElvaney wanted to show a different perspective of the refugee crisis, one not seen in the news with images from drones or photojournalists. Titled #refugeecameras, McElvaney says,
“Usually, we always want to tell the story and we have our photographers, who take the pictures; but I think these people can also have a voice themselves and show what they want to share.”
Now, three months later, according to McElvaney’s website, 7 of the 15 cameras were returned; of the rest, one camera was lost, two cameras were confiscated by authorities, and two are still in Izmir. The remaining three cameras and refugees are missing or unaccounted for.
The images show a fragment of each person’s journey – each image a unique perspective. One Syrian refugee documents the trip on an overcrowded dinghy, filled with 50-60 people.
Another shows the arrival on shore with a portrait of him and his two boys, safe in their new land. Some show the journey by land, and others, a look at happy family moments, an important part of not only the world’s history, but of their family’s history as well. The images, though technically imperfect in the hands of untrained photographers, are poignant and powerful.
To see more from this project, check out Kevin McElvaney’s website here and follow him on Facebook here. From April 1-3rd, the images from the seven cameras will be on exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, alongside images from photographers and filmmakers who have also documented the refugee crisis over the years. Admission is free, and you can get more details about the event here.
CREDITS: Photographs from Kevin McElvaney and #refugeecameras are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.