The first week of July is almost here, which means I will be volunteering in a refugee camp on Lesvos. I’ll be going with a humanitarian organization called Because We Carry, whose slogan is (loosely translated from Dutch): there’s no time to dick around, make a difference by doing. This means handing out food, build shelter for those who don’t have any, and basically be a human being and connect with other human beings on a humane level.
The storyteller in me saw another opportunity. Why not use my skills as
- I’m taking disposable cameras and notebooks with me, to be handed out to residents of the refugee camp. These residents are refugees themselves but also work in the camp, bridging the gap between “staff” and the other refugees. I will be asking them to document their daily life, in whatever way they see fit…it’s their story after all;
- With each frame that they take, they will use the notebook to explain why they took that frame. The notebook will also have a standard set of questions which will be the same for every participating resident. This way, the notebook will become the written testimony of the person who took the images in the first part of this project;
- The third part of the project will consist of my own documentation of my week on site. I will be capturing the daily work, specific projects in different sections of the camp and will try to talk to as many people as possible to hear their story and – if security measures permit it – take their portraits.
These three parts will be combined in a publication which for now has the title: The Non-Disposable project. The disposable part in the title refers in the first place to the cameras. The addition of the word non refers to the fact that the refugees are definitely not disposable! The refugee crises is a delicate subject matter, even though I personally can’t wrap my head around the fact that we live in a world where people need to flee from their homes because they are scared for their life. There is also a delicate matter involved with how stories can be shared, simply because some of the people are still at risk of being killed.
I’m calling it The Non-Disposable Project, because I want to emphasize the tension between the notion of disposable and non-disposable. The emotional component that comes with disposable cameras and film in general – everybody I know reacts differently when they realize they are captured on film – will resonate through the project and will elevate the final publication.
I am still raising money for Because We Carry, to help pay for the daily expenses in the camp. If you would like to make a donation, that would be very much appreciated.