My November 2015
Last fall Rocky Nook CEO Gerhard Rossbach gave 10 young refugees from Gambia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran the gift of photography. He gathered cameras through donations around Germany and gave them to a group of young people who had never photographed before, giving them this simple instruction: Use the cameras to tell us your stories. Below are the breathtaking results.
My November 2015: A Project with Refugees in Germany
by Gerhard Rossbach, CEO
With the devastating war raging in Syria and the unstable and dangerous political climate in Iraq, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa, millions of people are fleeing from their homelands to find shelter in Europe.
Heidelberg, our hometown in Southern Germany, has become a registration center for incoming refugees seeking asylum. Heidelberg is a university town with a population of 150,000, and in the last year, more than 10,000 refugees have arrived. Many of them are young—in their teens and early twenties. With the enormous (and still growing) number of applications for asylum, the wait is very long. The process often takes more than a year before a decision is made, and only then can the person begin to look for a job and for a permanent place to stay somewhere in Germany.
Heidelberg is also home to dpunkt, Rocky Nook’s German publishing sibling. At dpunkt, we felt we could help alleviate one of the major problems for these young people who are in limbo: boredom.
We asked our authors, photographers, and friends for equipment donations. We collected 10 digital camera systems, arranged two workshops, and sent an invitation to the camp asking for young people interested in participating in a photography project. The project filled up in a day, and we had 10 people in our first meeting in October: three from Gambia, two from Iraq, two from Afghanistan, two from Iran, and one from Syria—none of whom had ever used a camera other than their phones.
We showed them the very basics of using a DSLR, and agreed that they should use the camera for the next six weeks to tell their story of living in a new environment: a camp at night and a new, foreign city during the day. For some of them, communication was still difficult, but toward the end of the project, their German skills had noticeably improved.
At our final workshop, seven of the original participants came back with a total of more than 3,000 images (the other three refugees had to move on to other locations in Europe). We were amazed at the quality of photography we saw. It was absolutely stunning. We felt that these images should be seen, and we convinced the city of Heidelberg to give us adequate space to show these works in an exhibition. The exhibition will open on February 16 and can be seen there until the end of March. Since most of our Rocky Nook readers might not be able to see the exhibition, here is a sampling of the photographs, and here are six of the photographers.
The Photographers –
Kasseh from Gambia
Harikar from Iraq
Ramazan from Afghanistan
Arash from Iran
Lamin from Gambia
Dalal from Iraq
And here are their photographs –