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#RefugeeCameras: Documenting the Journey To Freedom, Through the Eyes of a Refugee

By Hanssie on March 27th 2016

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.

The view to the front. Like many other refugees he was in an overloaded dinghy, which keeps between 50 - 60 people.

The view to the front. Like many other refugees, he was in an overloaded dinghy, which keeps between 50 – 60 people.

A young man looks relieved inside the camera and holds up a young girl, after they arrived in a safe harbour.

A young man looks relieved inside the camera and holds up a young girl after they arrived in a safe harbour.

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.

Hamza holds up two boys after all refugees left the dinghy.

Hamza holds up two boys after all refugees left the dinghy.

Refugees looking out a overcrowded train in Macedonia. On the rigtht a mother holds her crying kid in her arms. The doors were not able to close and have been open during the drive.

Refugees looking out an overcrowded train in Macedonia. On the right a mother holds her crying kid in her arms. The doors were not able to close and have been open during the drive.

Refugees sit on the floor in an overcrowded train in Germany

Refugees sit on the floor in an overcrowded train in Germany


 

Son Kerim is joking around with other kids in a train compartment on their way to Germany.

Son Kerim is joking around with other kids in a train compartment on their way to Germany.

Son Kerim jumps around and smiles after arriving in their temporary sleepingroom, probably in Germany.

Son Kerim jumps around and smiles after arriving in their temporary sleeping room, probably in Germany.

A father from syria sleeps with his child in his arms on a bus from Athens to Idomeni

A father from Syria sleeps with his child in his arms on a bus from Athens to Idomeni

A volunteer entertains the younger refugees outside a camp between Croatia and Slovenia. The kids try to imitate his tricks.

A volunteer entertains the younger refugees outside a camp between Croatia and Slovenia. The kids try to imitate his tricks.

Covered in blankets, refugees are standing in line in front of an temporary refugee camp while the dawn already begins.

Covered in blankets, refugees are standing in line in front of a temporary refugee camp while the dawn already begins.

 

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.

[via PetaPixel]

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and www.fittedmagazine.com. Follow her on Instagram. Email her at:
[email protected]

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  1. Dede Vidal

    Truly amazing photos. A great way to record history from those who are living it.

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