11:24 GMT +322 February 2017
    Photo from the RefugeeCameras project

    #RefugeeCameras: Project Shows Refugees' Perspective on Journey to Europe

    © Photo: Kevin McElvaney
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    Late last year, German photographer Kevin McElvaney decided to conduct a unique experiment: giving single-use cameras to refugees he came across in Turkey and Greece and asking them to document their journey to Europe visually. Since then, cameras have been trickling in; Sputnik interviewed McElvaney to ask about the inspiration behind the project.

    Meeting refugees in Izmir, Turkey, and Lesbos, Athens and Idomeni, Greece in December 2015, McElvaney gave out 15 disposable cameras, along with prepared postage envelopes, to refugees, as they prepared (or continued) their journey to Western Europe. Since then, his website notes, the freelance photographer has received back 7 of the cameras, and been informed that 5 more were either lost, confiscated by border authorities, or still in Izmir, because the would-be refugees failed to make it to Greece. 3 more cameras and refugees are yet to turn up. 

    The project, McElvaney writes, "is an attempt "to give one of the best documented historic events of our time a new perspective," with "the refugees themselves [given] the opportunity to document their own journey through photography."

    Photo from the RefugeeCameras project.
    © Photo: Kevin McElvaney
    Photo from the RefugeeCameras project.

    ​Speaking to Radio Sputnik on Monday, McElvaney expanded on what he meant. "It's a kind of honest voice from them because it's more or less a first person view; it shows that this journey is a terrible one, and that many people suffer from it." At the same time, he added, "you see that there is also a positive attitude, and I more or less think you will see it when you look at the pictures which refugees took near the end."

    The mainstream media's coverage of the refugee crisis, the photographer suggested, is often careless in its portrayal of the situation. "I think we have to be careful for example with showing these kinds of drone footage where you see a huge amount of refugees walking over the fields of Serbia; some of these pictures reminded me of medieval knights movies or something where you see knights marching over the fields; I think this gives many people a negative and [uncertain] feeling, and maybe this leads to the situation we have right now."

    Photo from the RefugeeCameras project.
    © Photo: Kevin McElvaney
    Photo from the RefugeeCameras project.

    Ultimately, the photographer said, apart from his curiosity in 'just seeing what happens' with the project,  his goal is to offer a uniquely new perspective.

    "Usually, we always want to tell the story and we have our photographers, who take the pictures; but I think these people can also have a voice themselves and show what they want to share," McElvaney concluded.

    Photo from the RefugeeCameras project.
    © Photo: Kevin McElvaney
    Photo from the RefugeeCameras project.

    McElvaney's project, the Photo-Exhibition RefugeeCameras, will run from April 1-3 in Hamburg, Germany.


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    Middle East, perspective, disposable cameras, experiment, viewpoint, cameras, refugees, Kevin McElvaney, Europe
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    • avatar
      What is next?

      "Survivors refugee edition"? Live broadcasting for EU where Germans and Brits can place bets on which refugee will drown or make it to next country?

      The winner will get a permanent stay permit?
    • avatar
      A more accurate depiction of reality would be a story like this:
      “I am 20 years old from Syria. I deserted my army and left for Turkey, instead of staying and fighting for my country. I stayed there for 2 years in various hotels paying from my own pocket and waiting for the infidel Greeks to open their borders. When they did, I went to Greece and headed for Germany. Too bad the borders were closed after some refugees raped a few women in Cologne. As if this was a crime or something... Anyway, now I am stuck in Greece and although they give me anything I want, I prefer to stay in the mud and the rain in Eidomeni just to have pictures taken of me in desperation with some children I don’t even know. But I have rights, and soon I’ll make it to Germany where I will have money, home and car and everything else."
    • avatar
      Litter and trash piles mark their presence. Brussels is flooding Europe with war refugees to dilute it the continent of opposition to globalism forever.
    • avatar
      I don't know about its uniqueness, similar projects have been done over the years with disposable cameras, not with refugees though - at least not that I know of.
    • Is it because I am black?
      Gaining his fame on account of the plight of the refugees - not so fair, why not issue each family with its own camera!
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