Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Olivier Laurent

Hold Refugee Families Together: WhatsApp Messages

“Listening to these messages, I felt these stories had been given a life”

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily shared this link

@olivierclaurent March 28, 2016

Beautiful what’s app voice messages between Syrian refugees and their family member.

“Listening to these messages, I felt these stories had been given a life.”

They send back messages of love, hope and sorrow. Hundreds of thousands Syrian refugees have fled their homeland for Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and, in increasing numbers, Europe.

But families separated by thousands of miles still stay connected, thanks to smartphones and applications like the cross-platform mobile messaging program WhatsApp.

For the past three years, Jordanian-American photographer Tanya Habjouqa has been documenting the aftermath of the Arab Spring and Syria’s descent into civil war through the eyes of the millions of refugees that have flocked to Jordan and across the Mediterranean.

At the end of a two-month stretch in the Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps, as well as in Amman, Ramtha and Irbid, she came to a crossroads. “Since Alan Kurdi, the imagery around Syrian refugees is ubiquitous,” she says. “We’ve seen everything.”

Looking at her own work, Habjouqa thought her images failed to convey the urgency of this story as millions of Syrians continue to live in squalid conditions in Jordanian, Turkish and Greek refugee camps. Her role, she says, was to make people care for these refugees at a time when public opinion is shifting toward isolationism.

“I was racking my brain,” she says, “trying to find the imagery that said something I hadn’t been said again and again.”

Then, toward the end of her assignment, she saw a mother playing an audio message of her husband singing a lullaby to their child. The woman’s husband had sent his messages from Germany, where he was residing apart from his family. Listening to his messages, she felt that the story gained new life.

Habjouqa gathered dozens of audio messages that her editor and colleague Rabab Haj Yahya edited into this video, to accompany her photographs.

“It felt dignified and humanizing,” says Habjouqa. “Sometimes, the simplicity can be what brings us back to the power of a story. And, in this case, it’s their stories and their words.”

Tanya Habjouqa is a photographer with Panos, based in East Jerusalem.

Rabab Haj Yahya is a documentary and narrative film editor based in New York.


Note: Sabine Choucair has been documenting the stories recounted by refugees

We start the Clown Me In tour on the 19th of April and the best part is that the awesome clown/friend Clay Mazing ( with whom Sabine Choucair had the best Clowns Without Borders missions) and his Emergency Circus, Moniek De Leeuw are joining for a week / 8 shows!.
Thank you Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon / Ambassade de Suisse au Liban Sawa for Development and Aid
Sara Berjawi, Viveva Letemps, Walid Saliba, Hisham Abou Nasr Assaad

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With the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon / Ambassade de Suisse au Liban ClownMe In, Clown Me In we will be touring different Syrian and Palestinian camps and local communities, starting April 2016.

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Captured the limited Joys in Gaza

Posted on: October 12, 2015

Captured the Joys in Gaza

Tanya Habjouqa—born in Jordan, raised in Texas, and is married to a Palestinian with an Israeli passport—has been working in the area for years.

She’s done her share of hard-news photography, but since 2009, she’s also been taking photos for her “Occupied Pleasures” series.

A book of them will be published in December. Habjouqa says she doesn’t want to trivialize her subjects’ difficulties by showing them in carefree moods, but those moods are real too.

“The humor, the sadness, the suffering, fear,” she says. “It is one giant cocktail here. Fluctuating in seconds.”

Andrew Bossone shared a link.

Two furniture makers take a break next to the barrier that separates the West Bank from Israel.

Habjouqa says she saw them repeatedly and slowly built up a relationship before she started photographing them.

From days at the beach to party preparations, Tanya Habjouqa offers a different look into life during conflict.

National Geographic photo editor Sherry Brukbacher spoke with Habjouqa about her work.

How has the political and religious situation changed since you started your project, and how has it affected your access and the acceptance of you as both a woman and a photographer?

With the Israeli economic siege and blockade of Gaza, it hinders every aspect of daily life.

Simultaneously, over the years Hamas has been able to operate their own fiefdom and restrict many aspects of life on the Palestinian population in Gaza.

I have noticed that police on the street felt entitled to question dress, even mine as a foreigner, which shocked me, as that is something that never happens in Palestine.

As to me as a photographer, I have not felt a restriction photographing in Palestinian society, be it in Gaza, West Bank, or East Jerusalem.

In Gaza for this project, I was heavily pregnant. The minute people would see me hobbling on a beach with my camera gear, they would invite me to sit down and talk, and often insisted on carrying my equipment.

And more doors would open when they would discover my husband was Palestinian.

What is your approach to photographing this project?

Do you carry your camera everywhere, hoping to find situations, or is it more deliberate?

I have found covering hard news in Palestine sometimes easier, as some feel a political obligation to talk to you about the suffering. But I was looking for something more intimate.

While you drive in West Bank, where the vast majority of my work is, you pass the same checkpoints. You wait.

You watch the symphony. Usually it is a boring one of frustrated, beeping cars, but sometimes the interactions and little moments of resistance are hilarious.

For a lot of the youths in my photos, Facebook served a great role of access. They may be uncertain about me and ask if I had Facebook.

It was almost as if they were online shopping me, in some cases. After a week, I would often hear back an invitation to come meet.

What’s different about a place where people “live” the conflict—where it’s part of their lives, maybe even their entire lives?

And how does your own experience growing up in the region affect this project?

For me, I am from a minority group in Jordan, Circassian, and half Texan to boot. I had a Jordanian grandfather who was a leader in the community and a Texan grandfather who was a deputy sheriff.

So I was always aware of the multiple narrations of identity and place.

Picture of young girl on beach in gaza

A young girl plays on the beach in the party dress she wore the night before at a wedding, at the Deir El Balah refugee camp in Gaza.

On top of this, I had covered journalistically the occupied Palestinian territories, in addition to spending a vast amount of time working in Iraq and Darfur.

I thought I knew Palestine. But I could not be prepared for what it would mean to make this place my home, which only happened because I married a Palestinian.

Me, who has always had a U.S. passport and lived with a certain certainty. Now I live in fear constantly that my residency visa will not be renewed.

I once woke up in the middle of the night ranting to my husband, who works in politics and human rights, over my fear of an upcoming ministry of interior meeting for my visa. He grunted back to sleep and said, “Tanya, never bring the Israelis into our bed again.”

So it is living with the ability to compartmentalize. To disassociate from the present.

What has the reaction to the work been so far?

When the work was first published, I was flooded by emails from Palestinians in diaspora who would sometimes simply write, “Thank you.” Or occasionally expand and say, “Thank you for showing us as we are, for allowing us to recognize ourselves.”

One woman told me about the work, “It is a reminder that the moment of happiness for us is a win outside of all the defeating moments. It’s a reminder it is OK to smile … that happiness is OK, not that you giving up but winning. Maintain your humanity.” I utilize a lot of humor, sarcasm; I think my scenes are quiet.

And what I am working on now, a long-term assignment from UNHCR on Syrian refugees in Jordan.

It is not allowing for a lot of humor at the moment. Now I am banging my head how to tackle this story, and where do you go after the image of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian refugee washed ashore in toddler sleep position on a Turkish beach.

Maybe my attempt to utilize humor in my photography is a wishful approach in my work, as right now, living in a place where friends and family are being displaced or directly affected by the unfolding violence. It’s too close to home.

I am over the moon by my first U.S. Book review at the thoughtful intelligent hands of writer/editor/photographer Jen Tse. Thank you Olivier Laurent and time light box. Now the book is born and seen!

Occupied Pleasures shows humanity’s ability to find pleasure in trying circumstances


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