2016 marked the deadliest year on record concerning the refugee crisis and more than half of that statistic was made up by Syrians. For my 34th birthday, I decided to take a trip back to Istanbul, Turkey as this seemed to be a concentrated area of where a lot of refugees would land. Before booking my trip, I reached out to TTS ( Tarlabası Community Center) and worked with the Lead Psychologist to make arrangements for a visit. I really didn’t know what I can contribute but I explained to her that I had a personal interest in what was happening and wanted to contribute in some way. Upon my arrival, I had a more hands-on briefing with my contact as she explained the psychological state of the children I was about to spend the day with.
As luck would have it, the children were very reluctant to want to be photographed because of what they had experienced and as a guest, I could only be sensitive to that. As the day passed, I quietly observed and my presence was more or less treated that of an unwanted stray dog. But eventually, the energy softened up enough for me to interact with them but it was still a challenge to snap any photos. There was one boy who eventually gravitated to me and he drew me a picture that I brought home, even though we could not communicate with words, simple color pencils and paper allowed us to visually express our communications. He eventually allowed me to take a portrait of him and is published on my Instagram.
Although my objective was somewhat of a failure, the experience of bonding with a Syrian refugee child is one that was unexpected and something I will never forget.
It is amazing to see organizations like TTS that make such an effort to protect displaced children of their fundamental rights and helping them rehabilitate to a different culture and social life. When I had came to Istanbul a couple years before, the amount of poverty and displaced children was still very apparent, but not in the scale that it is now.
This is where my body of work for “Lost Souls” is portrayed.