I feel like lack of compassion often results from lack of understanding and lack of understanding results from the inability to communicate one's story. This was the seed for the 20 cameras project I did on my return trip to Syrian refugee camps in Greece last month. While I can't communicate how truly kind and caring these people are through photographs, I can teach them the importance of telling their own story so that the world can see them through their own eyes and not through the eyes of so many others who try to tell their story for better or for worse.
I had no idea what the level of interest would be in this project. I chose the 13-20 year-old age group, a range somewhat harder to entertain with activities but capable of so much. After explaining what disposable cameras are through a translator and doing a composition and storytelling workshop, they were off with their cameras. I consistently expected every portion of the project to fall through- they wouldn't show up for the initial class, they wouldn't bring their cameras back, the developing lab wouldn't get them completed in time, etc. In reality, the only 'almost fail' was my ability to track down 20 disposable cameras in northern Greece.
They had an absolute blast and loved that they could see, touch, and keep the prints. I was particularly unsure about this outcome as most of them have smart phones or their family does (a good reminder that these are just middle class city dwellers from a developed nation that happens to be also war ravaged). Watching them smile and proudly show each other their prints was proof of the greatest success...and the multiple thank you's I received from each. We made a gallery in camp displaying their favorite images (2 from each student) and the younger children and adults came and loved seeing their work.
Here are the highlights.