“Three boys from Aleppo, now living in Gaziantep, searching for plastic bottles to sell”
Since 2014 Alex Treves, a self taught photographer has been connecting, exploring and discovering stories of refugee communities. His financial career of over 20 years has enabled him to live and explore interesting countries from Japan, Bombay to Hong Kong. Above is just one snapshot of an individuals story featured in Alex’s book ‘Glimpses over the Edge - People displaced by conflict, violence and persecution’.
The book is a powerful and striking insight to the lives of refugees who have been forced to flee from countries including Syria, Rwanda, Burundi, North Korea, Burma, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. His intention is to educate and encourage empathy for communities who are trapped in this complex web. The idea of this book is to combine photographs with stories to personalise it, creating a powerful combination helping people to emotionally connect. Some have argued that these photographs are not artistic, cool or funky enough for validation, however I have to disagree. I believe that a straight forward picture paints a thousand words of truth, there is no glamorising or endorsing the idea ‘being poor’, or having ‘the freedom of choice’ striped away is not acceptable.
"Encountering the predicament of some of the refugees in these photographs was like looking over the edge of a high and unstable cliff, sick at just a glimpse of what it must feel like when the security of solid ground disappears from beneath your feet and you start falling". - Alex Treves
I was impressed at the level of detail the design of the book had incorporated, it has enabled the theme to flow from cover to cover. The Japanese designer Ayumi Higuchi based in Holland has cleverly used intricate detail to deliberately encourage people to pick it up and hold, pulling you into a snapshot of these refugees lives. Corrugated cardboard was used for the front and back covers to bring about the idea of a cardboard box life and the hand made lifejacket orange binding is a metaphor for the concept.
All profits from the sale of the book go towards the Refugees International Japan charity and all additional funds raised goes to the Justice Centre Hong Kong organisation. Alex currently sits on the board of both these charity organisations.
His target is to sell 1000 books, raising an excess of $15,000 that can be used by the charities to make a material difference.
"Here in Hong Kong $1000 is 40 hours of translation for a refugee seeking legal assistance" - Alex Treves
What really struck me as I learned more was the emotional journey that Mr Treves had embarked on, one of contemplation, gratitude and an ever increasing need to do something that can help. Feeling like a tiny drop of water in the sea he was able to bring elements of his passion for the arts and the travel his career offered him together and made a ripple of difference.
Having just witnessed the historical events of 2016 regarding Brexit in the UK and the prominent anti-immigrant rhetoric of right-wing parties that has swept across Western Europe really stopped me in my tracks to ask the question:
"Has society become desensitised to the devastation and pain inflicted on so many people running for their lives?"
Why is it that conversations and questions are only asked when a picture of a Syrian child was found dead on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum? Yet look how quickly it was forgotten.
You have to really think about it, the large population of the Wests attention span is limited, it seems the focus quickly turns back to focus on the 'dangers of immigration' so quickly.
Image: The Independant
A new Pew Research Center survey stated that the eight of the 10 European nations surveyed, half or more believe incoming refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country. Therefore it is hardly surprising that people fear refugees arriving to reside in their towns and cities. However I urge you to really think about that, is it really true? This is just one misconception that the West has embedded into societies thinking.
I was shocked to learn that 85% of refugees are now sitting in another developing country and the five top host nations for refugees are Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Iran.
According to World Atlas Syria is the biggest source of refugees in the world with over 4 million people evading the conflict there. War torn Afghanistan follows, 2.6 million Afghans were forced to abandoned their homes in 2015. The third biggest contributor of refugees come from Somalia where 1.1 million individuals have sought refuge in new countries. By the middle of 2015, South Sudan became the fourth biggest source of refugees with 744,100 South Sudanese leaving their home country.
Alex expresses his frustration at how mainstream media do not portray an accurate picture of how difficult the world is for many people and it can only be a good thing if he can contribute to communicating his message through his art urging people to comprehend the urgency of this crisis.
How can we (as a responsible society) come together to find solutions?
"For economic reasons people in the West are very angry, what I am very keen on is not to demonise refugees because no one became a refugee by choice, you only become one if there is no other option." - Alex Treves
Since this project launched Alex has exhibited his photography in Tokyo and in the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong this event raised over 35,000 US dollars for various refugee projects and now is looking further afield to continue to promote conversation and raise much needed funds.
If you would like to contribute you can purchase Alex's book here with a choice of 4 covers.
Also if you are interested in discussing any sponsorship opportunities, or contribute any other resources (venues, time etc) towards exhibiting Alex's work in London please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The intention is to raise awareness, encourage conversation and raise funds for critical projects.