Syrian Refugee Children’s Photographs

Artist Statement

How do people put together the shattered pieces of a dream when all is broken? How do they plan in a new land under new and unwritten rules with trauma behind them and uncertainty in front of them? In Fall 2014, I taught a series of workshops to Syrian refugee youth in Jordan and Lebanon. Their photographs reveal the great effort that it takes to move forward in life after losing or leaving behind everything that gave life its shape and meaning.

p28 Bannon Headshot

About Brendan Bannon

Brendan Bannon is a photographer and teacher based in New York and Nairobi, Kenya. Bannon’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and in other international publications. His projects have been exhibited internationally and at UN headquarters in New York. brendanbannon.photoshelter.com


p28 Bannon Keys

A Tearful Laugh. It was simultaneously funny and sad when I asked my mom, “Why did you bring the house keys with you?” And without an answer everyone began to laugh because these keys are useless. They are the keys to a house that is almost completely destroyed. My mom’s laugh quickly turned into tears that paved their path onto her cheeks and silenced the sound of that brilliant laugh… I also cried after that scene.
~ Hany


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This is the most important picture because it is the only way I can tell the whole world that I don’t ask for anyone to have mercy on me or take care of me. I only ask you to look at this picture, which shows my reality and tells the story of my life—a life which became full of funeral shrouds and grief. The Kaba is black. Nothing compares to its beauty, but this coffin is white and nothing compares to its ugliness. After so many crises in life, and the ones wrapped in white, in my dreams I can only see my sons shrouded in white.
~ Fatima


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At the moment the sun leaves us and continues its journey to different countries and continents, it is time to say goodbye. It is like getting executed. The moment of a beheading, everything gets dark. The beheaded remembers the last happy memories of a life. When I see sunsets, I remember the happiest moments with friends who have left me, especially the memories shared with my friend who was killed by the aggressors. I cry hard and tears fall on my cheeks like a sun falling through the sky.
~ Aahood


p31 Bannon

This is the most important picture to me because it is for my husband who was killed. “You are the cause of all crises. You are everything in my life. I have to see you even if you are far from me. Inside of me, there is a picture no one but I can see, a fire burning my heart a hundred times. I can’t tolerate its flame anymore. I have no choice but to picture my agony and transform it into a little picture the whole world can see.” She also wrote, “Fire burned my husband and now it wants to burn me.
This crisis and pain I have endured! This anguish didn’t want to have mercy on me. It burned my husband. Oh, I hear his voice in pain and in my dreams. Only fire. It wants to burn me and eat my body, so my soul could embrace his soul.”
~ Fatima


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This is my sad father. Me, my father, and all my family live in this tent. My father is very tired, tired from trying to support us and teach us how to read and write. Thank you. But we are his children and we have to take care of him as much as possible. My father suffered a lot to bring us here to this country.
~ Mohammad


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These kids are related. They are newcomers. I got to known them and asked to take a picture. They said “OK.” I started to play and I was happy with them. I told them so and they were happy too. They wanted a picture to send back to Syria.
~ Haneen


p34 Bannon

I, too, am like these caged birds. But they are in a cage while my chain is the present moment. I no longer know who I am in front of these birds.
~ Hany


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She doesn’t know how and will not have the chance to live her childhood. It was taken away from her by the war and destruction of Syria. A child’s vision in Za’atari Camp is different from the vision of other children in the world. The child in camp looks at the very far horizon so that she could find a way out of this situation and carry on with her life—like the other children. Play, joy, happiness, friendship, childhood.
~ Raghda