The Syrian Civil war has created over 3 million refugees in the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey, over half of whom are children. The physical effects of the war on children can be shown, but how can we see the psychological effects? How can we present refugee children as generic victims? How can we change how they are seen by the public, from exotic, distant, victimized, refugees to children like their own?
In 2013, I created the “Inside-Outside Project” with my partner, Mieke Strand to address these questions. That year, we went to Turkey to hold art classes and photograph the Syrian refugees.
The work combines formal, dignified portraits of children with drawings the children have made. The portraits use a painterly lighting style we associate with dignity and individuality, rather than “street” photojournalistic styles, to present the children as our equals. The drawings expose their thoughts: hidden trauma; daily pressures; the ideologies of the adults who control them; hopes and dreams for the future.
The idea for the project began 10 years ago when I was covering the aftermath of the south Asian tsunami, and I saw children’s paintings of the events. They addressed a problem I’d struggled with for a long time, having photographed mass graves and war crimes in Kosovo and Iraq: how to connect the evidence I was photographing to the events that created it.
The project is on-going effort. My intention is to create from this work three parts: a photographic and visual documentary of the effects of war and disaster; an Internet archive of drawings of war and disaster; a methodology for creating and capturing the drawings.
Please download the free iPad app from Apple iTunes — search for “Inside-Outside”.