Author Archives: Paula Ericsson

The photographer Dragana Jurisic explores the Yugoslavian desintegration consecuences

The documentalist photographer Dragana Jurisic was born in Slavonski Brod, Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia). She completed her course in Fine Arts at Wales University, Newport. Currently based in Dublin (Ireland), Jurisic won a number of awards and exhibited widely both in Ireland and elsewhere.  She is the author of “YU: The Lost Country”, work that explores the Yugoslavian desintegration consecuences, which can be visited until 16th of June at  Biblioteca Esquerra de l’Eixample Agustí Centelles.

How was your life during the war in Croatia?

The war began on a Sunday, September 1991. I was 16. I was starting my third year of high school. My friends and I were walking by the river, which is a natural border between Croatia and Bosnia. It was unusually quiet that day, nobody was around, when suddenly we saw a group of men approaching us. They were military men, although they were dressed as civilians. They came and told us to leave immediately, but we were young and anarchists, so we stayed at first, but we finally returned home. When we were on our way, I remember one of my friends saying: “this town is very boring … hopefully something exciting will happen.” Two or three hours later, the conflict broke out. Croatian soldiers sent us to the basement because they were going to use the balcony of my house to shoot at the Yugoslav Army garrison. Obviously, they were spotted, so the Yugoslav army targeted our apartment with termo-cumalative missiles and burned it down. We escaped before this happened.

How did the war influence your career as a photographer?

Three or four days after settling in a hotel in which we lived for about six months as refugees, my father bought me a camera so that I could make sense of what was happening around me, but the truth is that I am not able to find many of the negatives from that era, we moved so many times … Even so, when I went to the University of Rijeka (Croatia) to study psychology, I found a dark room on a campus that nobody used, so I started developing my own film and making prints

What was it like to live in Slavonski Brod, right on the border of Bosnia and Croatia?

Living on the historical border between East and West opens your perspective towards other cultures. Croats, Serbs and Muslims in my small town became increasingly nationalistic; there was a lot of tension. I am half Croatian and half Serbian so I could see the manipulation of information during the conflict from all sides. During the war there’s no real journalism, there is only propaganda, and that’s frightening.

In the course of making “YU: The Lost Country”, where was the place where you had most problems?

In Kosovo. My first name is Serbian and I had a Croatian passport, so on the Serbian side I had problems because of my Croatian passport, and on the Albanian side I felt rejected because of my Serbian name. I felt very vulnerable: wherever I went, I had police with guns waiting for me and interrogating me. I felt constantly threatened and monitored.

What do you think of the rise of nationalism in Europe?

I despise nationalism because I have seen the damage it causes. Nationalism always presumes superiority of one group over another. For example, the Croats believed themselves superior to others in Yugoslavia, more Western, more civilized, less Ottoman. Nationalism is a very handy tool used to control the masses. From the moment we are born, we are taught that our roots are very important, and that is precisely what I question. Humans are not trees – do we really need roots?

Does Europe wants to remember its past? 

In Croatia, some people try to deal with the sense of responsibility for what they did to the Muslim and the Serb civilians during the war, atrocities that only recently came to the light of day. I would like to have seen the model that was employed in Germany after the WWII. Really hammer into people a feeling of guilt so that the generations to come might remember what was done, take responsibility so it does not happen again. In Spain, also, I have seen that there is a great aversion to remember many thingsthat happened during the time of Franco, and that’s a shame. If you don’t deal with it, history starts repeating itself.

Do you trust in history?

I have seen contemporary history being rewritten very effectively and in a very short space of time. That makes me suspicious of everything. I however believe in personal stories. I think we can learn much more about humankind by looking at these.

 

YU – The Lost Country

Entrevista con Dragana Jurisic, YU – The Lost Country

¿Cómo fue tu vida durante la guerra en Croacia?

La guerra empezó un domingo, en septiembre de 1991. Tenía 16 años. Yo estaba empezando mi tercer año de secundaria. Mis amigos y yo estábamos caminando por el río, que es una frontera natural entre Croacia y Bosnia. Ese día era inusualmente tranquilo, no había nadie alrededor, cuando de repente vimos a un grupo de hombres que se acercaban. Eran militares, aunque iban vestidos de civiles. Ellos vinieron y nos dijeron que saliéramos de inmediato, pero éramos jóvenes y anarquistas, así que al principio nos quedamos, pero al final volvimos a casa. De regreso a nuestros hogares, recuerdo a uno de mis amigos diciendo: “esta ciudad es muy aburrida … ojalá pase algo interesante.” Dos o tres horas más tarde, estalló el conflicto. Soldados croatas nos enviaron al sótano porque se iban a utilizar el balcón de mi casa para disparar al Ejército Yugoslavo. Obviamente, fueron vistos, por lo que el ejército yugoslavo lanzó misiles termo-acumulativos a nuestro apartamento y lo quemó. Nos escapamos antes de que esto pasara.

¿Cómo influyó la guerra en tu carrera como fotoperiodista?

Tres o cuatro días después de instalarnos en un hotel en el que vivimos durante unos seis meses como refugiados, mi padre me compró una cámara para que pudiera dar sentido a lo que estaba ocurriendo a mi alrededor, pero la verdad es que no soy capaz de encontrar muchos de los negativos de esa época, nos mudamos tantas veces … Aún así, cuando fui a la Universidad de Rijeka (Croacia) a estudiar psicología, me encontraron una habitación oscura en un campus que nadie usa, así que empecé a revelar mis propias películas.

¿Qué te suponía vivir en Slavonski Brod, justo en medio de Serbia y Croacia?

Vivir en la frontera histórica entre el Este y el Oeste abre tu perspectiva hacia otras culturas. Los serbios, croatas y musulmanes de mi pequeño pueblo empezaron a volverse cada vez más nacionalistas: había mucha tensión. Yo soy croata por parte de padre y serbia por parte de madre, así que pude ver la manipulación informativa durante el conflicto por ambas partes. Durante la guerra no hay verdadero periodismo, sólo hay propaganda, y eso es aterrador.

¿En el curso de “YU: The Lost Country”, donde tuviste más problemas?

En Kosovo. Mi primer nombre es muy serbio y tengo un pasaporte de Croacia, por lo que en la parte serbia tenía problemas porque tenía pasaporte de Croacia, y en la parte de Albania me rechazaban por tener un nombre serbio. Me sentía muy vulnerable: salía a cualquier lado y tenía un cuerpo policial que con pistolas esperándome, te sentías constantemente amenazada y vigilada.

¿Qué opinas del ascenso del nacionalismo en Europa?

Cuestiono mucho el nacionalismo porqué he visto el daño que ha causado.  El nacionalismo reafirma la superioridad de un colectivo frente a otro. Por ejemplo, los croatas se creen superiores a los demás, más occidentales, más civilizados, menos otomanos. Todo empezó con un argumento económico, y luego promovieron el discurso defendiendo que ellos eran mejores que el resto: el nacionalismo es una herramienta para controlar a las masas. Desde el principio nos enseñan que nuestras raíces son muy importantes, y es precisamente eso lo que quiero cuestionar. No somos árboles – ¿realmente necesitamos raíces?

¿Europa quiere recordar su pasado?

En Croacia, algunas personas intentan lidiar con el sentido de las responsabilidad respecto a lo que hicieron a los musulmanes y a los civiles serbios durante la guerra, atrocidades que nunca han visto la luz del día. Me hubiese gustado ver el modelo que empleó Alemania después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Concienciar realmente a la gente con un sentimiento de culpa para que las próximas generaciones puedan entender lo que sucedió y asuman la responsabilidad de que nunca más vuelva a pasar. En España, en cambio, he visto que hay una gran aversión a recordar todo lo que sucedió durante al época del franquismo. Si no te encaras con ello, la historia empieza a repetirse por si misma.

¿Te fías de la historia?
He visto como la historia contemporánea ha sido reescrita de manera muy efectiva y en un espacio muy corto de tiempo. Eso me hace sospechar sobre todo. Yo creo en las historias personales, y creo que podemos aprender mucho más de la humanidad a partir de ellas.

Alessandro Penso, testigo de la crisis de refugiados en Lesbos

Por Paula Ericsson

Alessandro Penso, fotoperiodista italiano ganador del premio en la categoría ‘General News’ de la World Press Photo 2014, ha trabajado la migración en Malta, España, Melilla, Calais, Grecia y Bulgaria, siempre con el objetivo de mostrar la “verdadera cara” del viejo continente: “no me centro en el éxodo, quiero mostrar que las historias de las personas que fotografío han pasado en Europa”.

Alessandro Penso recuerda las restricciones que tuvo cuando trabajaba en Lesbos, imágenes que podremos ver en la exposición que presenta en DOCfield>16: “la policía me hacía esperar en el coche, me expulsaban de la playa aun y estar en una zona pública”. Por otro lado, el fotoperiodista lamenta que algunos miembros de la policía costera destrozaban los barcos que llegaban a la playa, dejando morir a las personas que viajaban en ellas.

Historias de Lesbos

“Lesbos, una isla que forma parte de la vida europea, se ha visto rodeada por la tragedia”, afirma el fotoperiodista. “Cuando estaba trabajando en la isla griega junto con el fotoperiodista Santi Palacios, vimos que una de las parejas que llegaban a la costa estaba llorando: el hombre se pagaba a si mismo y la mujer permanecía en silencio. Los dos nos miramos y nos acercamos a hablar con ellos, y aunque no les entendíamos – eran de Afganistán-, comprendimos que habían perdido a su hijo en el mar”.

El fotoperiodista ganador Magnum Foundation Emergency Found señala que uno de los principales problemas en Europa es la regulación de Dublín, y apunta que el 99,5% de las solicitudes de asilo en Grecia fueron denegadas durante el 2011, lo que provocaba que muchas personas acabaran en Centros de Internamiento de extranjeros (CIE): “Grecia era el único país que retenía 24 meses a los migrantes, frente a la normativa europea, que ponía los 18 meses como tiempo límite”.

Aun y así, Penso recuerda que con la entrada de Tspiras en el gobierno el año 2015 se cerraron algunos centros de Internamiento y empezaron a dejar pasar a todos los refugiados. Según el fotoperiodista ganador de Photo Story of the Year Time Magazine, ese cambio “fue un reto del gobierno griego hacia la UE para que vieran la importancia del país heleno en la migración”.

El fotoperiodista apunta que hasta el mes de octubre nadie ayudaba a los migrantes que llegaban al norte de Lesbos, la zona de mayor afluencia migratoria de la isla. El fotógrafo relata que los migrantes  tenían que caminar 50 km hasta la capital – un trayecto de dos o tres días- para solicitar los papeles en el puerto, donde los policías “decidían si tramitarían o no su solicitud de asilo”.

Europa, ciega ante la crisis migratoria

Asimismo, Alessandro Penso explica que los medios de comunicación se centran en el proceso migratorio, lo que ha provocado una pérdida de empatía por parte de la ciudadanía: “ya no pensamos qué implica huir de una guerra, ni qué han perdido en el camino, ni lo que necesitan ahora”. Por otro lado, Penso subraya que los sirios se han organizado, han exigido sus derechos y han recordado a las instituciones que no son ni animales ni turistas, sino que personas que huyen de una guerra. “Los sirios nos han dado una lección de democracia”, afirma el fotoperiodista.

Penso lamenta que la crisis de refugiados ha sido la mejor oportunidad para que los partidos nacionalistas, vinculados a la extrema derecha y a un discurso xenófobo, tomaran el poder: “dicen que los refugiados nos van a invadir cuando sólo suponen el 0,3% de la población europea”. El fotoperiodista opina que el discurso del miedo “es la mejor manera de convencer a la gente, ya que elimina la capacidad de pensar”.

The DOCfield15 closing party

Empty wine glasses, icy beers and infernal heat were with us at seven in the evening. Gradually, people began expectantly to flood the new Galería Carlos Taché Projects and the exhibition that opened the venue and at the same time closed this third edition of the DOCfield Festival: Melting Landscapes by Fernando Moleres.

Despite the labyrinthine entrance to the gallery, the courtyard filled up with a party marked by an almost ebullient family atmosphere, though still committed to what had brought us all here together over the last two months: documentary photography. In Melting Landscapes, one of the leading figures of national photojournalism, Fernando Moleres, offers a dramatically respectful expression of the environmental problem supposed by the melting of the Arctic icecap. Creating contradiction for any observing eye, the artist manages to turn something tragic into a work of art, and the beauty of the drama leaves no one indifferent.

With Melting Landscapes, the need for documentary photography to be shown in galleries and collected becomes even more evident, if possible. But tonight, no melting could quench the fire that raged, both inside and outside the space. For that we had the cold beers of Estrella Damm, the white wine of Palomo Cojo, and the ice cubes melting in the 30 degrees of Barcelona. A fun DOCfield>15-style photo call, with a tropical backdrop and a choice of matching accessories, provided a meeting point for many people to dress up and pose for FUJIFILM’s Instax instant cameras. Volunteers armed with cameras and smiles took pictures of everyone who was brave enough to overcome their embarrassment and have a good laugh. During the party there was also a draw for two FUJIFILM cameras, and two people went home with a gift: an Instax and a digital X-T10 with a XC16-50mm lens.

Artists, representatives of the Festival venues, visitors, sponsors and technological partner, collaborators, accomplices, PHOTOLOVERS and friends of DOCfield>15 turned the closing party into a timeless moment, joining us in celebration and encouraging us to continue working to make photography a tool for sensitization and personal growth for years to come. As Silvia Omedes, the director of Photographic Social Vision foundation, the Festival promotor, said, it is vital to “bring together rigour, sensibility and hard work” to continue with DOCfield>15, a city project. Once again, we’d like to thank you for making this third year possible, and would love to hear your ideas, comments and suggestions. We hope you have a great summer and will see you in the autumn when we’ll be announcing the new artistic direction and theme of the next festival. It’s a huge challenge, because the artist director for 2015, Jessica Murray, has set the bar very high. Thanks to her, this year sees the consolidation of the great Documentary Photography Festival that makes Barcelona a benchmark in the field of image throughout the months of May, June and July.

Fotografías de Joan Tomás, Mireia Plans, Nicolas Carvalho, Rodrigo Castro, Severine Sajous, Paula Ericsson y Silvia Omedes.

Interview to William Daniels: “A good photographer is the one who becomes invisible”

William Daniels

William Daniels photographer who works in social issues and humanitarian concerns, mostly focused on isolated or weakened areas because it is in those places that his photography can shed a light on their unseen realities. Daniels started his career in 2004, when he took pictures of street children in the Philippines. In 2007, William covered various humanitarian crisis all over Africa and Asia, where malaria and tuberculosis affected the population in a very hard way. He also covered some “democratic” revolutions, starting in 2007 with Kyrgyzstan revolution, called Faded Tulips, and covering Gadafi’s fall in Lybia in 2011. Getting into the stories in a way that makes him almost invisible, Daniels covered the Central African Republic chaos, a work for which he received the Second Prize in the General News category from World Press Photo 2014 Contest, and which has been published in TIME, Al Jazeera America and in The New York Times. With that humanitarian and curious point of view, Daniels moved from Africa and went to a new story: Train for the Forgotten. This work, which has been shown at Visa Pour l’Image 2014, talks about the BAM line, the Baikal-Amur Mainline, the railway that crosses Eastern Russia, running for more than 4000 kilometres, passing through remote villages with no amenities and certainly no healthcare facilities. If you want to find out how all these people live, and how William Daniels can make their stories even more unique, you must go and visit his exhibition from DOCfield>15, which ends on the 24th of July.

By Paula Ericsson

You’re invisible in your pictures.

A good photographer is the one who becomes invisible. A good photographer is the one who becmomes invisible. But it’s so difficult, I actually don’t think that I’m doing it well, I wish I could do it better. In this story, on the BAM line, I wanted to go more inside the stories, more into the life scene, but we just stayed there one month. What I want is to get more into this kind of images, to be there to catch those very human moments, where the people forget about the photographer, sitting in the corner of a room.

You’ve been to different places to cover and tho explain the people who suffer Malaria, you’ve been to India and Thailand, but your bigger work was in Africa. Why this choice?

In the first place, because Malaria is much bigger in Africa than in Thailand, India, or even Latin America, because Africa lives in poverty conditions and because the type of malaria is much stronger in Africa, it’s a type of malaria that kills people very quickly. In Asia the most popular type kills less people, but stays in the body for a very long time. The idea was to make a very global project, to go to many different places, and to show that malaria also affects so many people in Asia, and it also creates a very large economic impact. I wish I could also go to Latin America but for funding reasons it was easier to get in Asia and Africa than in Latin America.

Working with the NGO’s can be conditional to your work?

It depends on the situation. If you go to cover what you want to cover I don’t think it’s a problem. When we are journalists or reporters we always need the help of local people or organizations. Maybe what people say is when you work for the NGO’s as a communication assignment. The NGO’s need pictures that communicate what they do. This is not a problem if we make the difference between the two kinds of jobs, but it’s true that some NGO’s want you to work for them so you can take pictures of the volunteers giving food to the little poor african kids, because this is the way that they will touch people. I don’t want to do that, but I understand why they do it, it’s how they get funding from the public.

Daniels

A man distributing bed nets throws his hands to his head in frustration as women wait to receive free bed nets in Kano state, Nigeria. The distribution became increasingly fraught as beneficiaries worried that there would not be enough nets for everybody – William Daniels

Why do you think that there’s so many deaths of Malaria in Africa?

One of the reasons that dies so much people from malaria is that there’s no knowledge about it. They don’t’ have magazines, newspapers or TV, many kids don’t go to school, so it’s really difficult to send a message. In Burkina Faso, there was people who had a wrong knowledge about malaria, and they thought that when they got this sickness they had to see whicthdoctor. I also met some man that thought that they could treat malaria doing some kind or treatment with herbs. In Sierra Leone I saw a boy dying at the hospital because when he had the first symptoms of malaria his parents took him to a “witchdoctor”, and he gave him herbs to eat, and he died being suffocated by the herbs.

Some say that James Natchwey pictures are too tough, and that Salgado’s picture are too soft. What do you think about that?

I wouldn’t say that James Natchwey pictures are tough, I would say real. I remember shooting some patients AIDS and tuberculosis, similar to the projects that Natchwey did, and when you see that people you can’t find anything in their bodies, they only have their bones and their skin, they were starving really. So James Natchwey pictures goes just straight to the point, maybe that’s why his projects are polemical, but I’ve heard more polemic about Sebastiao Salgado, specially on his last works. The principal critic to his projects is the post-production, which I agree, because for me he abuses quite a bit of that, but I’m still a big fan of Salgado. When I was 20 I saw Salvado work and it really touched me, and he became one of the reasons why I choose to be a photographer.

In a World Press Photo interview you said that it was easy to set up an army in CAR. 

Yes, maybe not to set up a real army, but you can easily have some fighters with you. This country is so poor, people has nothing, so if you join a rebel group at least you’re someone: you have function, you have a mission, maybe if you’re liked you’ll have a gun, a little bit of money. If you don’t do that you will stay in your village and just do nothing, so that’s why it’s so easy to make that kind of groups begin.

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Antibalakas march in the bush between Bossangoa and Bossembelé – William Daniels

At first it was easier to cover this conflict, but was it that easy when the french army get into the conflict?

Yes, I don’t know if it was exactly because the french arm, but at the start the Anti- Balaka (christian militias) they were just protecting their party. But it changed, and it become in a real bad situation, they started to kill people, specially muslims. So since then any army wanted to have a journalist to get access or to photograph. There are some reporters who are still working there, but I prefer to wait a bit, I worked a lot last year.

You’ve covered Arab Spring revolutions, those called “revolutions for democracy”. 

It’s really not that simple, the western media sell to us that they’re fighting for democracy, but its not that simple. In Kyrgyzstan I’m not sure that most of the people want the real democracy, only a few people who want to stop the corruption, some others just wanted to be the new benefiters of the corruption, and other just want another leader to follow. And in Libya I’m not sure that the majority of Libyans what they want now is real democracy: they wanted to stop Gaddafi’s, some wanted to be less poor, some others wanted real democracy, other wanted to have a better leader.

William Daniels - Siria feb 22 2012

A rebel fighter in Homs under siege, Syria – William Daniels

You say it’s not that simple, but mass media show all of those revolutions are revolutions for democracy.

I wouldn’t say mass media or the Western world, because maybe the Western world wants to show that simple point of view: “Look at them, they’re following our steps, they’re fighting for democracy, they’re doing it right!”. When I started my project in Kyrgyzstan, during the Faded Tulips revolution in 2005 some media said “democracy is coming to central Asia”. Of course some part of the population wanted democracy, but I remember in Kyrgyzstan when I asked about democracy to villagers they answered: “Democracy? We don’t care about democracy, we want food and jobs first”.

Many people from the Western World think that democracy is the best system we can have and maybe we want the same things for the “undeveloped” countries. But how can you talk about democracy if nobody has food, if they don’t trust any leaders?. For me the most important thing is to eradicate corruption, everywhere, but specially in poor countries, because a country that nowadays could be devolved is actually poor, and nobody trusts their leaders, people take arms easily… it’s because of corruption that we have crisis. If we want undeveloped countries to change, the process to do is to fight corruption, not only by assistance.

How did you found out about the Train for the Forgotten?

I read a paper form a Russian magazine, Russian (Russki) Reporter. I knew about the LINE and it was quite curious because it’s been a long time since I wanted to travel around BAM line, I was attracted by that place, and I wanted to go there. But when you work for a magazine you always have a way to tell a story about your travel, you have to take a good angle, tell them: “Hey, I discovered this medical train, which travels around poor villages around the BAM line, and it’s a good way to know their lifes and their stories”. Actually I’m working in a new project about the BAM line that I started two months ago not with the medical train.

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Liza Bazhanova, eight, waits for test results from a general checkup. Even this first grader complains about the lack of decent health care in her village – William Daniels

The BAM line just goes to those villages two times per year. Is this enough for the population?

It would be difficult to go there every month because we’re talking about a really big trip, and I’m not sure that people would use it more than that, because this train is not treating patients, it gives diagnosis. So when they give you your diagnosis you can then go to the hospital, or buy some pills and rest at home. If you don’t know the diagnosis you don’t know where to go, and maybe you will travel, you will spend a lot of hours, and maybe you didn’t need to go to the hospital, paying a lot of money for that. I also think that it would be such a difficult thing to organize a train which treats people, needs so much bigger organization, more money, more employees…

And how was to meet their patients? 

The people were quite impressed to see a French foreigner, it’s more typical to find a Chinese one, or a North Korean one. They were quite happy to appear in my pictures, they wanted to be photographed, but when I told them “I don’t want to take one photograph of you, I want to stay with you the whole day, and I want you to not care about me” they got quite surprised. So you have to become their friend, come back, take some presents, have a beer some time… and after this I could see that the people of this place where quite open-minded. Also there’s some people who are a bit worried about what you’re doing “You’re giving a bad image of my country, you’re covering the problems of my country”, and I think that comes from the years and years of propaganda of the Soviet Regime and still a little nowadays with Putin. Some of those people are scared about their name or their face being linked to a complaint about their country.

What do the forgotten feel like? Do they plan to stay on those isolated places, or to leave them?

People are leaving, but so many people like the nature, and some others just can’t leave their houses. If someone wants to sell his or her house, nobody will buy it. One of the women I talked with- her husband was in his last days of cancer- and she had two daughters that moved a long time ago, and before he died, she told me that she was quite worried about all the things she had, because nobody would buy it. Some teenagers want to leave to the cities, they dream about having a big social life, buy clothes, have a normal teenager life.

William DanielsThe staff takes an after-hours break. They’ll swig vodka, eat barbecue, and burn a straw effigy to mark the folk holiday before Russian Orthodox Lent – William Daniels

Entrevista con Alberto Bougleux: “El documental es una herramienta para devolver a los lugares una parte de su propia identidad”

Alberto Bougleux Alberto Bogleuxis an Italian documentarist who has worked as a director and editor for over 10 years. He arrived in Barcelona in 2005, and has a professional baggage endorsed by his projects about the post-war period in Bosnia and Herzegovina, human rights in Maghreb, and the Spanish Civil War, and his last two projects, El Retratista and Último Día. Bougleux explores Barcelona alongside Joan Tomás, and thanks to this photographer-documentarist duo, Ciudad Migrante [Migrant city] brings together a collection of stories of the hidden Barcelona, the Barcelona of other people who are made more unknown by our fear. Bougleux turned Ciudad Migrante into a documentary that raises awareness of the social problems surrounding migration, with recourse to empathy rather than victimism.

Why the periphery rather than the Eixample?

Ciudad Migrante came into being after Joan Tomás’s adventures with Veus des de la Ribera [The voices of La Ribera] project and its photographic search for a human periphery, a different centre, whether geographical or in social and problematic terms. Les Veus de la Ribera is a project to revitalize the community, aimed at a neighbourhood which for decades has been considered a ghetto, with the idea of restoring some kind of centrality that draws these stories and identities out of the dark and returns them to the centre. These problems are often concealed by an anonymity that encourages mass policies which do not look people in the face. And with Joan Tomás, we wanted to restore this identity by using the photos in public spaces, where each of us has to relate with this reality.

How did you find out about these stories?

With the help of Martín Habiague, who’s an incredible producer and inventor of social projects, with his unconditional love for a certain kind of humanity, and listening to others with the help of Mescladís, who put him in touch with the great social network all over the city, with the people who move projects. A map of real stories that were worth making personal contact to go and find out more. We made a selection from all the stories, prioritizing those that were universal rather than local—stories that could migrate, because ultimately, Ciudad Migrante is not just about people who migrate; it’s about stories in constant motion. Then there were the contacts of Joan Tomás, from previous projects such as Qui som?! [Who are we?!] and the act of photography enabled us to cover more stories. For the documentary, we did have to talk and come to an agreement as to which of the stories should be included.

Sole, is one of the “voices” of La Ribera who has lived there for a long time, fighting for social cohesion, but there is still not much bonding between the different collectives.

That is what we’re fighting for—the invisible city, the city of minorities, people who have no voice and are therefore difficult to portray, and these are the stories of the latest project, Diálogos Invisibles [Invisible dialogues]. These are the stories on the shutters, and that’s no coincidence, because they appear at night, when the shutters come down. We set out to find things that are difficult to find, that mark out a political, human, moral way of understanding the city that reveals the migrant origin of the deeply rooted identity of this territory and proposes it as a tool to develop the future.

Sole

Sole at “Encajados”- Joan Tomás

To build a future of real social cohesion. The other day, talking to Joan Tomás, we admitted that despite all the talk about cultural diversity in Barcelona, both of us had to think hard to come up with a Pakistani, Chinese or Senegalese friend. 

The idea of these projects is to manifest this problem. The point is not to prove some kind of theory, but to show it on the walls or on screens, to make it a mirror of the thing itself, to tell the city what that city actually is. We also wanted to develop individual stories, because we’re used to seeing others as statistics, and we need to seek universality, not in statistics, but with exemplary stories. You’re bound to find something about yourself in these stories, and that allows you to empathise with the person. Like literature, this is a way of living lives that have never been yours, and that never will be yours, but you can experience them.

What aspects of yourself do you think have contributed to the viewpoint of the documentary?

Neorealism is a vital reference for me; it’s an experience that has marked European cinema and therefore forms part of documentary cinema’s ongoing challenge of establishing a close link between reality and cinematographic representation. Then I’ve lived in Barcelona for a long time and made lots of documentaries about a variety of themes that are not originally my own. In each case, I’ve seen that the documentary is a way of appropriating a citizenship that is not necessarily yours. The documentary is a tool for restoring to places some of their own identity, memory and story. It may not be your place, but in this way you somehow become part of it. I’ve realized that the documentary is an excellent and very laborious way of getting a new passport.

 

Ibrahima Seydi

Ibrahima Seydi

Ibrahima Seydi, Diàlegs Invisibles testimony– Joan Tomás

Open-air screenings and papering the city with photos seems much more democratic than putting them in a gallery. 

It is returning to the city a part of itself, actually in the city. You couldn’t get closer—the next step would be to go and see people in their own homes [He laughs]. The expressive medium of Paper Actiu [Active paper/Active role] is the thing that is most like the thing itself, and in Ciudad Migrante we do the same, we weave together all the motions, all the moments that happened. Both projects are a very particular way of shaping experiences, and we can shape them on walls, in motion, but ultimately we shape them in order to be able to share them.

Why did you choose to document settled migration—if we can use the term settlement—rather than the migratory process?

The migratory process is a speciality that is in the news as it happens, that is absolutely necessary and that occurs with great dignity, but it doesn’t allow you to enter the story in the same way. Some great documentaries were made in Italy right after the Revolution in Tunisia that prompted a massive influx of Tunisians into Italy, though there were also the powerful images of masses of people arriving in Lampedusa that were so badly exploited in the media. When they started making documentaries about people who were making their own way, some even towards the northern border, and who then had more time to sit down and talk to you, then you got to see the migratory experience with a little distance. This pause is what the urgency of the headline does not allow, because the bombardment and worrying of the media anesthetises you and cancels out your capacity for reflection.

 

Diálogos Invisibles

 Debora, Diálogos Invisibles testimony – Joan Tomás

Which stories do you think best represent the protest that is present in Ciudad Migrante?

The part that deals with the most difficult aspects, both human and legal, is the last section, the Diálogos Invisibles. It is important to address this theme from a different viewpoint that also shows the positive side, without forgetting where these stories come from and the real difficulties they meet. They are stories of people who come from violations of human rights in their own countries, who have had political asylum refused and undergone very difficult conditions in an attempt to see their rights recognised, putting their own lives and those of their families in danger to reach Europe. This is where the legal framework often once again undermines their rights to a normal decent life, without fear of racial, political, sexual or any other type of persecution.

Lots of groups of activists in Barcelona are working to get the CIE detention centre in Zona Franca closed down, with actions that have recently reached institutional politics. Why isn’t this included in Ciudad Migrante?

That’s our next project. We talked about whether to include a story related with the CIE in Ciudad Migrante. But so as not to undermine the issue or repeat a powerful discourse that is already under way, we realised we have to address it from a different viewpoint—one that raises awareness about this paralegal horror going on alongside our normal lives. As Martín so rightly says, to make Europe ashamed of the historic phase in which this existed and was tolerated, the way it is now ashamed of colonialism or the horrors of World War II.

 

Entrevista a YOSIGO: “Mi idea era partir de la naturaleza muy pura y llegar hasta la contaminación que aparece muy rápido”

OPENHOUSE EXHIBITION #6

“DOWNRIVER” by YOSIGO

INTERVIEW WITH YOSIGO

By Ana Schulz

How did you arrive at the Llobregat?

The project came about as a reaction to another one about tourism in Barcelona. My idea was to do something inside the city and then go out of it. I was photographing the city’s best-known spots, and when I finished I wanted to get out. It was somewhat of a directed reaction; I wanted to get really tired of the city in itself and the most touristy places, and then get out and more calmly photograph the periphery. My original idea was to photograph the edges of the city, starting at the Metro stations at the end of the line. When I took the red line to Bellvitge and got to the Llobregat, I felt a kind of special connection, an intuition, and I said to myself: something could happen here. It’s also true that it reminded me of my village, Hondarribi, because of the market gardening. So it was a random encounter, which is the way stories come to me; I don’t do documentation and research, and then take photos; it’s the other way round, it’s a kind of intuition. That’s how I function. Often it doesn’t work, but then, sometimes, it does.

How did you go about it?

First I was very compulsive about taking photos of the mouth of the river and when I started documenting the work and got interested in everything around it. I started going upriver and the project began to take form. My idea was to start out from pure nature and get to the pollution, which very quickly appears. I started photographing the theme of the industrial colonies, and then I went up to the source before coming back down in search of the parts I needed for the book. I was out taking photos for 10 months, and then three or four preparing the book.

How is the book structured?

The original idea was to make the book chronological—to start in the mountains and end at the mouth, but then that seemed too obvious and linear. What I really wanted to do was to convey a general idea of abandonment, nostalgia, decadence of a rather desolate territory. Of course, the start is the source, nature in its purer form, and the end is beside the airport. In the middle, the whole route is mixed together. I thought it would be more interesting to piece the story together by moving the parts, otherwise it would have been like a sticker album.

Who are the people you portray?

People who live in the colonies. They are people who have a very close, direct relation with the river. For example, the girl in one of the portraits lives beside the river, she spends a lot of time there on her own because there are hardly any young people, just very old people, former employees in the factories. That’s why there’s a very strange atmosphere of old stories. They’re people who are still paying very old rents of one or two euros, but there’s nothing there, which is why there’s such a strange atmosphere. For example, there’s one colony where there is just one person living. Then there are the interests of the private investors who’d like to get in and get their hands on it, but while there’s still even just one tenant, they can’t. And there’s all the controversy about the only mining company there that’s still active. I wanted to hint at all of the things going on along the river without spelling them out.

Your images find beauty in the most desolate places. How do you manage that?

Yes, it’s a kind of nod to Romanticism, that’s the way I work, it just comes out like that. I don’t set out to beautify what is ugly, but I’ve tried other registers and in the end I see that this is my way of taking photographs. Then people often use the word beautiful to describe images that I would say are not precisely beautiful; it’s like I’m tricking you a bit, I make images seem beautiful to you, but if you look a little further they convey something more. At least, that’s what I try to do with photography.

Why do you think abandoned places are so photogenic?

They tell a thousand stories, they show time at a standstill, and they kind of let you travel in time, take a journey to the past…

Would you say they are the equivalent of faded photos of bygone days?

They have a very direct relation with photography. In this case, I was also looking for spaces without human intervention—nothing written on the walls, no graffiti… Here, the greatest merit was to find places without this kind of intervention, to make this journey in time harder, to go back to the space as it was left, without later experiences that made the space run-down but not abandoned.

How did you go about organizing the exhibition for Openhouse?

More than a dissection of the book, it’s a specific adaptation for the wall, specially for the walls of Openhouse. They are two different formats of the same project. The book is clearly divided into two parts, portrait and landscape, and for the exhibition I centred on landscape. Because it’s an apartment rather than a gallery, the layout is not so obvious, so I tried to create small niches for each space. I thought this would be easier to do with landscape, still-lifes and vegetation than with portraits of people. A landscape, a detail or a still-life allows a more ambiguous reading, and people can find a second interpretation more easily.

What is the final photograph in the project?

It’s a wake in the form of a rib caused by a rock in the water. I think it kind of humanizes the water. And the image also fades to black in a kind of homage to the cinema.

It could be the Llobregat monster …

[Laughs] Yes, it could. I did want to personify or humanize the river. I talk about it all the time without showing it, so I wanted to come up with a portrait of the water for the end. I was looking for abstract forms and I found this stone. I was looking for something like that, and I found it.

 

What have you learned with this project?

Something very important, actually. I suffered from getting involved with a long-term project. My projects tend to be very short, I’ve even completed some in a day, and I’d never spent more than three weeks on a project, so this was a whole new way of going about a photographic project. It’s a form that I like, and I’m a great consumer of this type of photography, but it doesn’t make me happy. It was a whole new experience of photography for me, but I lost the magic or the concern with my surroundings. It was the year that I’ve taken fewest photos. And now I’m happy to be able to photograph my surroundings without having to tell a story. The act of photography in itself is what liberates me, though they don’t have to be good photos. For me, doing the project was liberating, it helped me understand that I want to photograph what I want. A photographic project is finished when you’ve learned something from it, and from this one I learned that I wasn’t comfortable with what I was doing.

 

This exhibition forms part of the Ciutat Vella route of DOCfield>15 Barcelona Documentary Photography Festival. Other routes and more information at: http://www.docfieldbarcelona.org

Entrevista con Joan Tomás: “El rostro es un paisaje fascinante”

Joan Tomás (Barcelona, 1958) is a portraitist who picked up his camera at the age of 11. He started his official studies in London, at Ealing College of Higher Education, but prior to that he was involved in various photography collectives, and was later one of the founders of the Centre de Fotografia Documental de Barcelona. Armed with his camera and a long and varied career, Joan Tomás wanted to X-ray the realities of Barcelona neighbourhoods, centring on the stories of the people who live there. With this aim, Tomás has managed with his multiple projects to make society aware of its many different faces. Diálogos invisibles and Paper Actiu are two of the projects on show at DOCfield>15. These works show us how photography isn’t just for galleries—it comes into its own in the street.

By Paula Ericsson

Why did you choose Barcelona and not Syria?

Someone has to explain what’s going on here, don’t they? Of course it’s necessary to talk about what’s happening elsewhere, but there are lots of very important realities right here, and someone has to explain them. I decided to do it, and it was a very conscious decision.

Why was it such a conscious decision? Were you linked to any movements in the city?

I’ve always been linked to Barcelona because this is where my family is from, from the neighbourhood of Sant Pere Més Baix. And no, I’ve never been involved in any particular movement or collective. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a sniper: when I come up with a project or want to do something, I do it and that’s that. The first project I did in my neighbourhood in 2004 came about because during a local festival, a street theatre group proposed an open project to local residents. I took part and did 140 portraits of neighbourhood people.

140 is a lot! Why do you accumulate so many faces?

I like series—I prefer to take 50 photos to just one. That’s not something that’s happened in these last 10 years. In the 1990s there was a campaign to combat drug addiction, and we went to a set backstage in the Olympic Stadium at a macro concert (Mecano and Bosé were playing). In a day, I did 60 portraits. I do it because I love it. Right now, while we’re looking at each other, lots of things are happening. A face is never still, it’s changing constantly. I think that’s amazing; the face is a fascinating landscape. I love to see it, and I look to experience it.

 

Joan Tomás

Joan Tomás – Ester Roig photography

What does Sant Pere Més Baix mean to you?

I’ve always seen this district as the village of Asterix and Obelix: in the middle of Barcelona, it has a very strong personality of its own, with a deeply rooted commercial tradition. Sant Pere borders with the Eixample, the Born, Pau Claris and everything that that represents (Portal de l’Àngel and its big names). It was like a stronghold, like a village in the middle of Barcelona, without the evolution of the city centre; it was a very personal neighbourhood. Now this tranquillity is threatened by tourism. I’m very pessimistic about the invasion; I don’t think the neighbourhood as we know it will exist in three or four years’ time.

In an interview with Ara newspaper you talk about your project “Qui som?!” [Who are we?!] to reconstruct the history of the district and denounce the aggression it is facing. Is it possible to say who or what is responsible for this aggression?

In 2004, we wrote a text with “Qui som?!” about this, about the danger of the neighbourhood becoming a fashionable quarter, with the death of its traditional artisan life. And in fact it’s got worse. Some say the biggest danger is the Born, but for me the biggest danger comes from Carrer Comtal and Portal de l’Àngel. There are more and more premises that only big business can afford. There was the threat of the Hotel Palau, which excited a lot of neighbourhood resistance and was halted thanks to everything the Millet corruption case revealed, but otherwise it would probably have gone ahead. But there are more threats from other hotels: the ones in Carrer Comtal, at the Estació del Nord (a site owned by the Núñez y Navarro developers), Santa Caterina…

In this context, where property agents and tourism seem to be appropriating Barcelona, what is the symbolism involved in papering the city with photos?

Specifically talking about the “Qui som?!” installation, on the one hand it’s asking who we are and who we want to be, and the exclamation mark is there to emphasise the character of the neighbourhood. It contains the 140 portraits I did in 2004, the photos I took in 2009 in Plaça de Sant Pere, and others I took in 2014. In a way, it’s a celebration of the district’s personality and a gift for local residents, because they live it, because it stirs their memory. Paradoxically, it’s become a focus for tourists, and this consequence is difficult to interpret. “Qui som?!” is a recovery of public space, recovering places that were once abandoned, like Pou de la Figuera, for example.

Paper Actiu [Active paper/Active role) has different meanings; it invites us to play an active role in our society.

At the start we were talking about Agora as a space that is recovered and where people talk and reflect. Paper Actiu is about the material I work with, but it also urges people to take an active role in society. For me, it’s very important for the people involved to become aware, too, and for them to adopt active roles and change. All of this work represents a project of transformation, and the first people to transform themselves are the ones who took part in it: Paco and Maria José de la Mina, Saïd who helped me paper the city, and Alberto Bougleux by directing Ciudad Migrante.

 

 

Joan Tomás

Ester Roig photography

Within the neighbourhood, which the media sometimes portray as a conflictive area due to migration, how do people get along?

In this neighbourhood, people just get along with each other. Yes, there’s a bunch of petty thieves, everyone knows who and where they are, and at times there’s been a big problem with bag-snatching and, at very specific moments, with burglaries in homes. But these phenomena are occasional. I think they’ve tried to stigmatize Sant Pere Més Baix. Then there are also different viewpoints within the district: when we prepared the installation for “Escolta’m” [Listen to me], which was a criticism of racist police round-ups, one of the slogans was “Stop redadas-Stop Racismo” [Stop the round-ups-Stop racism] and a group of local people complained to the Council because they didn’t want the “Stop the round-ups” part of the slogan. After that complaint, the Council censored the installation. After much discussion, they made us remove the word “round-ups”, which just made the censorship more evident, magnifying the incident, even getting it into the press.

How did you portray the local residents of a district that is so personal for you?

In this project there are two types of portrait: one dates from 2004, when I simply picked up my camera, and with Joan Roura we went out stopping local people and asking them if they wanted to be in the project. We were trying to explain the history of the district by means of its people, and they were the 140 portraits I did. The other part, in the project “Encajados” [Pigeon-holed], which had a circumstantial beginning as a result of a commission, I portrayed local people in a cardboard box. This box became a kind of little theatre, where people could do what they wanted. For me as a portraitist, this was a fantastic experience, because when I picked up my camera, people got in the box and did things they’d have found it much harder to do in a studio or in the street. What’s more, they turned out fabulous! In fact, the exhibition includes a half-hour audiovisual showing 420 portraits (of the 1200 I have).

We see several photos with slogans against the detention centres and other demands or complaints of different activist movements.

In 2008, with the project La Ciudad Tomada—a commission for a documentary photography festival where the leitmotif was resistance—I wanted to give a voice to activist collectives. I spoke to 19 different collectives, including V de Vivienda when Ada Colau was involved, Patio Maravillas and Revista Cañamo. Here, I didn’t just want to produce a portrait; I wanted them to make their message heard, so they used banners to express themselves.

Josef Koudelka said that one of the best things about photography was the democracy behind it, and that photos are most interesting when they were open to the interpretations of the spectators. What do you, Joan Tomás, think? With or without caption?

I don’t use captions; the text is part of the photo. I suppose I’m partly influenced by Barbara Kruger. For me, it’s very important for the work to speak for itself, especially in this period of confusion and crisis. I’m not interested in explaining what I mean; I want you to look at it and understand it.

 

Joan Tomás

Joan Tomás – Ester Roig photography

Meeting of the jury of the DOCfield Fundació Banc Sabadell Dummy Award

The five members of the jury for the DOCfield Fundació Banc Sabadell Dummy Award are meeting today to choose the winning dummy. The prize to the winner will be the impression of a photobook valued at 3,000 euros of their photographic project and its inclusion in the private collection of the Fundació Banc Sabadell.

So, who’s behind this expert jury?

To start with, we present the photography curator Natasha Christia. Natasha has worked on projects ranging from museology to the production of documentary film festivals. From 2005 to 2014, she was the artistic director of Kowasa Gallery. She is currently a writer and freelance curator, and works with RM, a publisher specialising in photobooks based in Barcelona and Mexico, and teaches at GrisArt International School of Photography.

Another of the members is the photographer Israel Ariño, who studied photography at the Institut d’Estudis Fotogràfics de Catalunya (IEFC). He shows regularly in Spain and particularly in France, and his work is present in numerous public and private collections. In 2006 he decided to set up Les Editions Impossibles publishing company, devoted to the publication of artists’ books. He is currently developing the publishing project Ediciones Anómalas.

Our photobook curator is Roser Cambray. This graduate in the History of Art specialising in Photographic Heritage worked in the Photography Department of the MNAC. She is the coordinator at Scan Tarragona, where she has curated two photobook exhibitions. This year she was photobook curator at the Embarrat visual arts festival.

Gonzalo Golpe is a graduate in Spanish Literature and has a diploma in Text Editing and Publishing from the University of Deusto. Since 2010 he has directed Siete de un Golpe, a studio specialising in graphic editing, coordination and production for publishing and exhibitions. He is also the author of an essay on self-publishing photographic books called SELF and curated  IXIL AR. He teaches at the Blank Paper School of Photography and Collective.

The Folio Club is an offset-digital printer coordinated by a team that specialises in creativity and design, and also helps in the production of artistic publications, with the emphasis on the specific identity of the projects and offering the technical tools for their development. In addition the Folio Club works as a platform to publicise independent publishing projects and a place for reflection on new practices in the graphic sector.

Tomorrow, 30 June, the jury will announce the winner of the DOCfield Fundació Banc Sabadell DUMMY AWARD and, on 1 July, we’ll be presenting the Fundació Banc Sabadell Award at the Folio Club, with an exhibition of the finalist photobook dummies. Keep your eyes open and best of luck!

 

 

Interview with Tanya Habjouqa: “The mass media tend to go to the banality, dehumanizing the war”

Tanya HabjouqaTanya Habjouqa is a half Texan and half Jordan photojournalist. She has covered different conflicts in the Middle East as a “war photogapher”, but now she has been focusing on a different narrative for her stories. She is a freelance photographer and a founding member of the Rawiya photo collective (founded by five female photographers from across the Middle East). She is now living in East Jersualem, where she is documenting its reality in a unique point of view: humor. With a gender and social perspective, and with special attention to represent the Palestinian population, Habjouqa has won the Secod Prize of the Daily Life category from World Press Photo 2014 contest with her recent project, Occupied Pleasures.

By Paula Ericsson

Your mum is American and your dad is Jordan. How is living in the middle of two different cultures?

It definitely defines the way I am as a storyteller, because I belong nowhere and I belong everywhere.

When you were still living in Texas, you still had contact with Jordania, you went there almost every summer. You also studied a master’s in Global Media & Middle East Politics at the University of London SOAS. What is it like to study a conflict that you already lived, and are still living, from the outside?

When I applied to do the master’s, because I was in a quiet period in my career. By chance, before going to do the masters, I got an assignment and I went to cover the war in Lebanon in 2006. I will never forget the things that I saw there. I saw a morgue truck overflowing with bodies, and overflowing with photo taking pictures of this from outside. The poor man managing the truck (which was operating without electricity and the expected stench of the dead) was losing his mind. He became angry at all the cameras and began asking “Oh, you want to see bodies? Here is an arm! Here is a head! Here is a baby fetus!”.  But I was uncomfortable. And realized that I did not want to do hard news unless I had the financial freedom to move and edit it according to how I saw it. So I went directly from that war to London, and academia, in circular conversations. Things felt irrelevant for awhile.

You live in East Jerusalem, and you work basically in West Jerusalem. How do you feel walking through each part of the conflict?

There are limited movements for Palestinians access.  I’m not Palestinian and I have really good conditions compared to them, and I have to cross the borders every single day, but because of my appearance, people manning checkpoints think I am Russian so I can pass the checkpoints quickly. Then you see some women wearing a hijab being stopped while you can go in and out without any problem, and even if you’re not directly hassled, it affects you. But, on the other hand, as a storyteller I have an incredible privilege because I have amazing access, and see the realities of both sides.

Tell us one story that you could get in because of your gender, and one that you couldn’t listen to because of being a woman. 

So many. There are certain people, those who are extremely conservative, with whom I don’t even try, because it’s a bridge that I can’t cross. But when I work in the Middle East, women and men see me as a foreign photographer, so there’s some kind of things that I’m allowed to do: I can make jokes, I can ask things that maybe a woman from that society wouldn’t ask them. I like to know how people are, so I ask personal questions. And then, once you do it, you’ve gone further than that dry interview relationship. What I want is to open up to the point where they can show me their lives at the same time that they forget about me. The only downside of being a woman photographer is that you can get into some bad situations, but that can happen to any woman in any part of the world.

Going to your Women of Gaza project, you said in an interview that you found a hunger for communication, especially from one girl who was studying English literature. How did you feed their lack of communication?

In general, many women there don’t tend to open up to a stranger. But when I went there, after two or three days, they started surrounding me and explaining to me their thoughts and their desires. The English literature student was really passionate about Jane Austen, for example. I went there on 2009, and when I came back after the Gaza bombardment it was a really bad economic situation. The best students could get the job offered by the UN and the NGO’s. The others had to get married if they wanted to get out of Gaza. One of those girls, who was 19, told me that she was going to marry and she was going to leave Gaza. “Where are you going now?” “To Lybia”. And this is something that didn’t so frequently before Gaza, marriage before finishing high school, certainly not in the West Bank.

In your projects you talk about the lack of private space of the working class women in Gaza. 

Those are the ones who have the worst situation in Gaza, not only because they are the ones who try to put a normal face in a bombardment. The journalists can come take some pictures, go back and take a break or maybe go to the psychologist, but there’s no place to separate, escape from daily stress of Gaza, so they keep it all inside. One day I saw this group of women working out in hijab, and they hesitated letting me photograph them. They thought Westerners were going to make fun of four women wearing full hijab while making sports. They agreed to let me take photograph  if I explained they were wearing it while working out because they had no private place to work out, with the restrictive economic conditions and damaged infrastructure from bombardments.

Women in Gaza

And how do they scape from the stress of they daily realities?

There are limited resources, and places to escape stresses, amongst the poor in Gaza. They always say “thank god for the sea”. There are also psycho social programs run by various UN and NGOs. While visiting one of these groups in a refugee camp, I was pregnant pregnant. They wanted to know “Is it a boy or is it a girl?” I told them I had a little girl, so really I wanted a boy this time. And these woman, with their limited resources and time, took me by the hand to see the Russian doctor (who came to camp in limited visits).  The Doctor had been married to a Palestinian and lived in Gaza for years. She had an ultrasound machine seemed to be from the 1970s. With a heavy Russian accent, and a quick glance, she said “It’s a boy”. When I went back to the room, the women were waiting for my answer, and then I told them: “It’s a boy!” They broke into dance and celebration with me. Despite all of their pain, on a day that was meant to be an escape for them, the empathy was overwhelming.

You also say that humor is a way of breaking the stereotypes we have about Middle East. Which of your stereotypes have your own pictures broken?

When I was younger I didn’t have as much confidence to strongly put my foot down with editors, and when I made the pictures in the Lebanon war I was not always happy with the edit chosen by editors, Even if you are journalist but you are a human as well and I was emotional by all I was seeing. One of the pictures that I sent to my editor was of a couple clasping each other, who had burned to death. The editors told me to not to send those sort of images. Then I understood that if I wanted to make that kind of pictures I had to be able to present and go deeper into the narratives. Now that I’m older I’m very careful with that because, even if I put the caption, I have to be sure that my photographs are not building a stereotype or misrepresenting it.

Tell us more about your project Poverty and Uncertainty for Widows of Syrian “Freedom Fighters”.

I documented some women refugees who had their husbands on the war, because they were fighters in Syria. This project was very hopeful in a way, I tried to show how they survived while their husbands were fighting, and how the romance restarted between them, sending sexy texts and images. But one year after, one by one, all their husbands died, and they became widows and orphans because of the Syrian Revolution. Those little girls that I photographed one year before were getting married, and I was horrified, but I couldn’t commit any judgement because I saw that there was no other way to deal with their situation. Also, the women that I photographed were really conservative, they were wearing niqab, and they don’t go outside on the street, so telling this story visually was really hard.

In an Al Jazeera interview you say that: “For me I’m not successful with any of the stories that I do unless I capture the Western audience as well as the audience of the place that I film”. How can you capture the attention from the people of the place that you film? Do you think that the West cares about the ones that are being filmed? 

Whenever I do a long time project I do my research and I spend my process and I spend on that at the beginning, then I go into it. And before I publish anything I go to people that I respect, people who have been to the place that I covered, so they know their language and their culture, and they can tell me if my work is representing their community or not. In the Middle East one of the most fascinating things is that the working class is the most political people I have ever seen, because in the Middle East politics is present everyday, so you can have the most intellectual and political conversation with a taxi driver.

And about the West… The way that we produce news now, like Buzzfeed or News and this shit is probably the future of how the next generation is going to receive news. There are some people that have lunch while they are reading the news, there’s some people who are working the whole day, and they’re not going to care about the Nepal earthquake.