World Refugee Day 2012 Presentation

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This is the presentation that me and my wife Nathalie presented at the World Refugee Day 2012 event that was hosted by the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, CA. This event was focused on highlighting and celebrating refugee issues from around the world. This event was sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Find out more about our work at: www.cultureasart.com.

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  • I hope that it is fairly obvious that there are many Iraqi’s who now call San Diego home. Forced from there homes, jobs, and family to escape death or imprisonment, these Iraqi’s have quite an amazing story. Our hope today is to introduce you to a little bit of the resilience, hope, generosity, and dignity these Iraqis showed after having had terrifyingly close encounters with death and while living in the midst of much insecurity and unknown was humbling, and spoke volumes of the courage that can drive the human spirit forward in the darkest moments of life. My photography barely captured all of this, but it was an experience that had me thinking deeply about the one side of war that many often forget to consider: its innocent, vulnerable victims. \n\n
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  • I first became interested in photography during my travels through South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. As I spent time in slums, far-flung villages, and refugee camps I repeatedly experienced a deep beauty in the people I met. I saw their joy in the midst of great suffering, and generosity in the midst of barely having enough to get through the day, and this changed how I saw the world. Over time it fundamentally changed who I was. Whenever I went through such places I captured what I could with the point and shoot camera I carried with me, but the results were never that great. \n\nIn 2008 I bought my first DSLR and a few months later I went on a trip to Guatemala for a friend’s wedding. I found myself spending hours walking through the streets and taking thousands of photos. What I was able to capture through the lens continued to reveal the power of a picture, at times expressing more than a million words would. I also enjoyed how people interacted with me just because I was holding a camera. It sure acted as a great ice-breaker! \n\nAfter returning from Guatemala, I decided to pursue photography professionally, and I also decided to expand my portfolio to wedding photography and head-shots. However, the longer I spent with my camera, the deeper I desired to use my photography to show those around me a glimpse of people unknown, forgotten, and often misunderstood by them. The summer of 2009 presented the perfect opportunity to do so through a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo where I was to capture the work of a small US non-profit in Congolese refugee camps. I spent one month in Eastern Congo capturing images and hearing the moving life stories of refugees. Through this experience I truly discovered how I can uniquely capture beautiful images in the midst of great suffering, and this by primarily getting to know the people before I snapped their picture. \n
  • Listening - I have found as I have worked with refugees that they have often been exploited and taken advantage of. I remember being in Congo in 2009 and a few Internally Displaced Refugees not wanting to have there photo taken. Westerns had been in and out during the conflicts, but rarely stayed long enough to listen and understand what was going on. I found that it was much better to listen to what the refugees had gone through and try to understand it rather than just shoot away. \n\nEarning Trust- Once I earned a small measure of trust from a refugee, I feel that they began to open up what had happened in their lives. \n\nGetting Permission- If they don’t want their photo taken, honor that. The photos of my work in Lebanon especially where costly. I would say for each of the photos you see today, I spent an hour listening to their stories and many more didn’t want their photo taken. \n
  • Listening - I have found as I have worked with refugees that they have often been exploited and taken advantage of. I remember being in Congo in 2009 and a few Internally Displaced Refugees not wanting to have there photo taken. Westerns had been in and out during the conflicts, but rarely stayed long enough to listen and understand what was going on. I found that it was much better to listen to what the refugees had gone through and try to understand it rather than just shoot away. \n\nEarning Trust- Once I earned a small measure of trust from a refugee, I feel that they began to open up what had happened in their lives. \n\nGetting Permission- If they don’t want their photo taken, honor that. The photos of my work in Lebanon especially where costly. I would say for each of the photos you see today, I spent an hour listening to their stories and many more didn’t want their photo taken. \n
  • Listening - I have found as I have worked with refugees that they have often been exploited and taken advantage of. I remember being in Congo in 2009 and a few Internally Displaced Refugees not wanting to have there photo taken. Westerns had been in and out during the conflicts, but rarely stayed long enough to listen and understand what was going on. I found that it was much better to listen to what the refugees had gone through and try to understand it rather than just shoot away. \n\nEarning Trust- Once I earned a small measure of trust from a refugee, I feel that they began to open up what had happened in their lives. \n\nGetting Permission- If they don’t want their photo taken, honor that. The photos of my work in Lebanon especially where costly. I would say for each of the photos you see today, I spent an hour listening to their stories and many more didn’t want their photo taken. \n
  • Listening - I have found as I have worked with refugees that they have often been exploited and taken advantage of. I remember being in Congo in 2009 and a few Internally Displaced Refugees not wanting to have there photo taken. Westerns had been in and out during the conflicts, but rarely stayed long enough to listen and understand what was going on. I found that it was much better to listen to what the refugees had gone through and try to understand it rather than just shoot away. \n\nEarning Trust- Once I earned a small measure of trust from a refugee, I feel that they began to open up what had happened in their lives. \n\nGetting Permission- If they don’t want their photo taken, honor that. The photos of my work in Lebanon especially where costly. I would say for each of the photos you see today, I spent an hour listening to their stories and many more didn’t want their photo taken. \n
  • Some of my work in Congo working with IDP’s partnering with a local NGO called Global Children’s Movement. I was deeply surprised by the beauty, dignity, and hope that I saw in Congo, in the place that has seen the most deadly war since World War II. \n
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  • •Malta – Refugees \n•BIOLA – MA Anthropology – emphases International Development & Refugee Studies \n•Wanted to focus on Afghan or Iraqi refugees, the Iraqis at the time being the largest displaced people group worldwide because of the 2003 US invasion in Iraq\n•Got connected to a small church of Chaldean Iraqis Maran Atha in El Cajon so that decided my choice\n\n\n
  • •Malta – Refugees \n•BIOLA – MA Anthropology – emphases International Development & Refugee Studies \n•Wanted to focus on Afghan or Iraqi refugees, the Iraqis at the time being the largest displaced people group worldwide because of the 2003 US invasion in Iraq\n•Got connected to a small church of Chaldean Iraqis Maran Atha in El Cajon so that decided my choice\n\n
  • •Researched their integration in the US (Vian, Eman, Floreed Alaso, Janan) \n•An eye opener in many ways – culture, customs, traditions, the importance of community but also… \n•The hardships encountered after fleeing from Iraq and before settling in El Cajon \n\n
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  • •Janan Koria (21) \n•As a Chaldean living in the village of Tlkaif, in the north of Muslim Iraq, he lived most of his life as a minority, never outright persecuted but ever aware of the lack of freedom to be who he is. \n•Life under Saddam Hussein was hard. Making a living was difficult, pushing both of his parents to work. \n•When the dictator was defeated and killed in 2006, Janan thought life was going to get better. And it did, for a brief period of time, new job opportunities surfaced. However things digressed as quickly as they had progressed. Persecution towards Christians heightened, with many choosing the unfamiliar and fleeing over staying and risking their lives. \n•Janan and his family left Iraq in 2007, the same year terrorists kidnapped his father as he was on his way to visit some relatives. It was the last straw for his family who had recently received multiple threat notes. \n•They left for Turkey, where they lived in the unknown for nine and a half months, having no desire to return to Iraq yet unsure of what lay ahead of them. When their chance for a new beginning came they chose to start anew in El Cajon, San Diego, where his sister had already settled with her family. \n•Living life in the US has not been plain sailing, but Janan lives with the mindset that “…if you want life to be good, then you choose to go after what is good. Then life will be good.” In the past months, his focus has been on improving his fluency in English, on passing his GRE exams so as to start a college degree, and on finding work so as to be able to support himself and his family.\n•The large majority of his extended family is spread out in various countries in the West, such as the US, Canada, Australia and Demark.\n•The immense individual and social price forced migration and dispossession costs. Reconstruct social networks based on trust, moral faith, and empathy.\n\n
  • •The concept of liminality – that time in limbo after separation and before reintegration when much about life is ambiguous or unknown\n•One family spent time in Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon (looking for a livelihood) before being resettled in El Cajon\n•Partnered with a local NGO of Lebanese and Syrian workers – Heart For Lebanon\n•Their focus at the time – worked with Bedouins in the South of Lebanon AND provided relief aid for Iraqi refugee families \n•60 house visits in 2 months: aim: to listen to their stories, help w/ food, clothes, blankets in the winter and other household supplies, advice on their asylum application w/ the UNHCR\n•Sectarian violence is what drove most of the families out\noPersecuted because they were Chaldean, Christian – a minority – death threats, kidnapping\n•The importance of their social capital from internal displacement onwards; united by their lack, their struggles, and their alienation from the host society\noMany first became internally displaced when they moved to predominantly Christian cities, joining family/friends in villages \noOnce in Beirut, many depended on each other to secure shelter and work\n•Formal structures that they could tap into, even though their presence although known, was illegal (they become illegal three months after entry, even if entry is legal) \noEducation for children and youth\n♣However, families scared to send children to school – traced back to them; youth need to work as they replace the father as the breadwinner \noRelief aid\n•Work available on the black market – mostly manual labor \noLacking rights, high number increased competition, Iraqis maltreated by their employers\noIf caught, deported or detained - many choose to be detained in appalling conditions \n•Many torn between thankfulness to be alive and safe and an anguish about the insecurity of the present and the future \n•The live to wait on news about their asylum application \n•Trapped in their apartments – going out is risky – they go out for the essential \n•Many question their faith, the reason for their persecution \n\n
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  • •When I met five-year-old Manuel, his family was a week away from being \nresettled in the U.S.\n•Hala and Farid, Manuel’s parents, talked of how tired they were of waiting close to two years for their new life to begin, and how eager they were to join their family in the U.S. \n•Manuel was kidnapped while he was playing right outside their house. The then three-year-old was kidnapped for 10 days, during which he was beaten up and burned with cigarettes. A ransom of $30,000 was asked for him, but since his parents were unable to come up with so much money, the terrorists agreed to settle for half the sum only if the family left Iraq immediately after Manuel’s return. And they did. \n•During his first six months in Lebanon, Manuel hardly spoke a word to anyone except for his parents. Farid said that he is not allowed to leave the house unless he is accompanied by him or by his mother. \n•Manuel’s father explained how, soon after his release, Manuel became very aggressive, and would react violently to even the smallest of hitches. Farid explained that time, together with a lot of love and patience, seem to have helped Manuel heal, but he often gets anxious around people he does not know, hence his reluctance to be around us.\n•As we left Manuel’s house, one of Heart For Lebanon’s staff workers recalled the first time he met Manuel, which was at a children’s camp organized by the NGO, specifically for Iraqi refugee children. He said that Manuel had been very aggressive towards other Iraqi children, using everything as a weapon, starting up fights, and threatening to kill other children. \n\n
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  • •Daud was kidnapped and ransomed for three times. \n•His two younger brothers were killed right before Christmas. \n•In Lebanon, he is often immobilized by fear, thinking up the worst when coming across clusters of men. \n•He is unable to find work, physically incapable to do the jobs most Iraqis do with a back maimed by the multiple beatings that kept him under control while kidnapped. \n•And so Daud has had to do what is perhaps the hardest for any Iraqi man to do, and pass the breadwinner role to his wife and four young sons. \n•Freely choosing to give his family’s monthly food ration to Iraqi neighbors when he has been stripped of so much.\n\n
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  • Our Humanitarian Media business. Our attempt to tell the stories of hope that we have seen among refugees.\n We aim to help NGOs and nonprofits tell their story and share it with engaged donors and supporters. We have done photography, web design, and writing stories for different nonprofits. \n We both have other jobs, but we are both very passionate about telling these stories and raising awareness around the issues that affect refugees. \n This is the type of work that we both want to do long term.\n
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  • Our hope is to continue to projects like these as we are able to. \n We would really like to focus on the issues refugees face coming from North Africa into Europe through Malta specifically.\n I work for an international non-profit that I hope I will be able to do more of this kind of work with in future too. \n
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  • World Refugee Day 2012 Presentation

    1. 1. Iraqi Refugees www.cultureasart.com | Joshua and Nathalie Seale
    2. 2. Joshua
    3. 3. Photography with Refugees
    4. 4. Photography with Refugees• Listen to their stories before even thinking of taking a photo
    5. 5. Photography with Refugees• Listen to their stories before even thinking of taking a photo• Earn Trust
    6. 6. Photography with Refugees• Listen to their stories before even thinking of taking a photo• Earn Trust• Get “Permission” to take the photo
    7. 7. Photography with Refugees• Listen to their stories before even thinking of taking a photo• Earn Trust• Get “Permission” to take the photo• Trust and permission create better photographs
    8. 8. Nathalie
    9. 9. Iraqis in El Cajon
    10. 10. Iraqis in Beirut, Lebanon
    11. 11. Manuel
    12. 12. Daud and His Two Girls
    13. 13. Culture as Art
    14. 14. Website
    15. 15. Other Projects
    16. 16. Latino Immigrants in Orange CountyMika Community Development
    17. 17. Website
    18. 18. Whats Next
    19. 19. Questions

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