There is nothing glamorous about ‘Migrant Chic’
There is nothing chic about being a migrant, about walking hundreds of kilometers across borders while fearing for your life
This week, Hungarian photographer Norbert Baksa disrespected refugees by photographing fresh-faced models taking selfies along barbed wire. After sparking outrage on Twitter, Baksa removed the photo series from his website, but the photographs can still be viewed online.
The installation was labelled ‘Des Migrant,’ or ‘migrant chic.’ However, there is nothing chic about being a migrant, about walking hundreds of kilometers across borders while fearing for your life.
Photography is one of the primary reasons behind the recent European attention given to the refugee crisis. The photographs of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish shore finally humanized the situation.
Photographs of refugee camps are powerful and heart-breaking. The world does not need studio-built refugee camps, skinny models and staged shots to raise awareness. If anything, they dehumanize the situation.
there is nothing chic about being a migrant, about walking hundreds of kilometers across borders while fearing for your life.Yara al-Wazir
Photography is an international language, and photographers need to continue highlighting human suffering. This comes through being on the ground to document the situation, whether from the photographer’s point of view or the victim’s.
Instead of creating art about refugees, they can be given the opportunity to create art themselves. This raises awareness of their plight, and is a recognized form of therapy. Three-dimensional installations are also valid forms of raising awareness, so long as they do not mock the situation.
This is what British street artist Banksy did through his installation Dismaland, which brought together more than 100 artists, some of them refugees, to create political art. Tickets sold out within minutes. Afterward, the artists decided to turn the installations into refugee camps in France.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir
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