SCARS AND SOLIDARITY - Bosnia-Herzegovina
FINDING HOME - Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Lakes of Fusine, Italy

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Gran Canaria, Spain

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Gran Canaria, Spain

Fine art print on Canon Deep Matte paper, with a smooth finish.
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Hangzhou, China

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Stuck at the margins in the Balkans
Mostra fotografica
20 giugno - 20 luglio 2024
PR2, Via Massimo D’Azeglio 2, Ravenna

La mostra è patrocinata dal Comune di Ravenna ed è inserita nel calendario del Festival delle Culture.

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Le vite sospese di donne, uomini e bambini lungo la "rotta balcanica"
Bosnia ed Erzegovina 2021
Mostra fotografica itinerante

Tappe:28 novembre 2023 - 5 gennaio 2024
Rassegna "Pace", Sala di rappresentanza del Municipio di Castelvetro, Modena
12 - 25 ottobre 2023
Festival S/paesati, Teatro Miela Foyer, Trieste
14 settembre - 1 ottobre 2023
Chiosco ai Renai, Castelfiorentino, Firenze
12 giugno - 13 agosto 2023
Casa delle Culture, Ravenna
5 - 12 maggio 2023
Il Conventino - Caffè Letterario, Firenze
16 dicembre 2022 - 1 gennaio 2023
Torre Mirana, Palazzo Thun, Trento
8 dicembre - 14 dicembre 2022
Liceo Classico Giovanni Prati, Trento
21 novembre - 18 dicembre 2022
Rassegna d'Arte Contemporanea Internazionale "Espansioni", Hangar Teatri, Trieste
16 novembre - 6 dicembre 2022
Liceo Scientifico Leonardo da Vinci, Trento
21 ottobre - 6 novembre 2022
Rassegna di libri e fotografia "Rotte", Antico Caffè San Marco, Trieste

While yearning
for the motherland
we find home
between transits
and parking lots
of countries
which have never
heard our names.
- Elona Beqiraj
* Mentre bramiamo / la madre patria / troviamo casa / tra aree di transito / e parcheggi / di Paesi / che non hanno mai / udito i nostri nomi.

Sono migliaia le persone che ogni anno cercano di raggiungere l’Europa seguendo la "rotta balcanica". Vengono prevalentemente da Afghanistan e Pakistan, ma molti sono anche coloro che arrivano da altri Paesi, quali Iran, Iraq o Siria. Fuggono da conflitti, persecuzioni o privazioni e sono alla ricerca di una vita dignitosa. Da quando la rotta ha iniziato ad attraversare la Bosnia ed Erzegovina, nel 2018, il Paese è diventato per loro una fermata obbligata. Uomini, donne e bambini vengono infatti regolarmente respinti quando cercano di attraversare il confine con la Croazia, nel cosiddetto “game”. Sono frequenti i resoconti di respingimenti violenti e la maggior parte delle persone riferisce di aver tentato il “game” molteplici volte. Costretti a vivere per mesi, a volte persino anni, nei corridoi freddi e anneriti degli edifici abbandonati e negli accampamenti di fortuna, in un limbo dove il tempo sembra essersi congelato.

La storia completa si trova a questa pagina.La mostra è patrocinata da ICS - Consorzio Italiano di Solidarietà.

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Print and online press


Dealing with anger through art therapy
Centre for Syrian refugee children with PTSD
Amman, Jordan

© Ben Owen-Browne

I'm an Italian documentary photographer based in London focusing on human rights and migration.I have worked, among other places, in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, where those who have fled conflict and persecution cannot be granted refugee status and are forced to a life in limbo; in the squats in the Balkans where migrant men, women and children get stuck during their journey towards Europe; on the beaches of the Canary Islands, the destination for thousands of people who every year set off in flimsy boats from the coast of West Africa, facing what is probably the most dangerous journey into Europe.I have been commissioned by several NGOs and my work has been published in a range of print and online magazines and newspapers. My photography has won the 2021 Portrait of Humanity award and received an honourable mention in Photography 4 Humanity Global Prize 2020, supported by the Human Rights agency of the United Nations. In 2022 I was shortlisted for the Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award and the International Women in Photo Association Award.My exhibition on the Balkan route Finding home is currently touring around Italy.

2023 International Women in Photo Association Award, Shortlisted
2023 Pride Photo Award, Selected story
2022 Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award, Shortlisted
2022 International Women in Photo Association Award, Shortlisted
2022 Korridor – Innsbrucker Preis für Dokumentarfotografie, Pre-selection
2021 Portrait of Humanity, British Journal of Photography, Winner
2021 Siena Creative Photo Awards, Shortlisted
2020 Photography 4 Humanity Global Prize, Honourable mention
2019 Reconstruction of Identities Open Call 2019, Finalist
2023 Salusbury World, exhibition of 'Scars and Solidarity' (London, UK)
2023 Festival S/paesati, exhibition of 'Finding Home' (Trieste, Italy)
2023 Migration Matters Festival, exhibition of 'Scars and Solidarity' (Sheffield, UK)
2023 And They Were You, group exhibition, 'Scars and Solidarity' (Hastings, UK)
2023 Pride Photo Exhibition, group exhibition, 'Invisible border' (travelling around the Netherlands)
2022 Rassegna d'Arte Contemporanea Internazionale “Espansioni”, group exhibition (Trieste, Italy)
2022-2023 'Finding home', solo exhibition (travelling around Italy)
2021 PHOTO International Festival of Photography, group exhibition, 'Invisible border' (Melbourne, Australia)
2021 Belfast Photo Festival, group exhibition, 'Invisible border' (Belfast, UK)
2021 Indian Photo Festival, group exhibition, 'Invisible border' (Hyderabad, India)
2021 featured in Portrait of Humanity Vol. 3, photographic book by HOXTON MINI PRESS
2020 featured in Staying Home Together, photographic book by Exhibit Around - dotART and F-Stop Magazine
2023 'Effective reporting on migration' workshop, E3J - European Excellence Exchange in Journalism, selected for a funded place
2022 Women Photojournalists of Washington, Scholarship for WPOW annual seminar and portfolio reviews
2022 Arts for Justice Residency (Granada, Spain) by Ulex Project, selected for a funded place

Testimonies and images from the Ukrainian war and exodus, 2022

A little girl entering a tent at the border crossing of Vyšné Nemecké, Slovakia.

"War dismantled my life brick by brick. First, it took away the electricity and the Internet. Mobile communication and a generator became the most valuable resources. Money has generally lost its weight. Then the occupiers, about 70 tanks, drove into our village. They felled trees, destroyed playgrounds, shot into high-rise apartments, and into the windows of private houses. I will never forget the sound of the tank, like a tractor that came not to plow the land, but to destroy all living things." (Ruslan Biljakobich, Nemishajeve)"Already at the first roadblock, my children saw Ukrainian tanks moving through the streets of Irpin. There was no limit to their curiosity, because it was impossible to silence the roar of those iron cars. [...] Only women and children were allowed on the platform, so we said goodbye near the station building and my wife and children headed to the platform to the sounds of mines and shells exploding. [...] As soon as they walked in, the moment in my life that I hate more than anything came for me, waiting. Waiting and feeling like you can't do anything. Nobody knows if there will be a train, nobody knows if it will be able to pass, nobody knows what to do if it doesn't come. [...] And time dragged on." (Anonymous, Irpin)"All the cats were let out, the fish were fed, and the neighbours took the women and children out through the town of Stoyanka in the surviving cars. Everyone arrived safely. My friend and I were left alone. We walked through the destroyed city to the blown-up Romanov bridge. It was sad to look at the once flourishing and tidy city. Damaged cars, destroyed buildings and the last people left, mostly elderly - such a sad landscape. Now my friend and I are in Kyiv, we have moved into my apartment on Pechersk. It is incredibly quiet here, after six days of shelling. Maybe we'll get some sleep." (Anonymous, Irpin)"The explosion also damaged my house. Shrapnel pierced the wall of my father's room around his bed. By some miracle, he was not affected. "I don't want to be here" was my first thought. The evacuation was planned that same day. I packed my things in tears. My whole life fitted into a backpack with an embroidered patch. We planned to go to my aunt in Kyiv. Only 20 km from home, but as if on Mars. [...] The next day we were evacuated near the cultural centre. As if the Titanic was sinking, people were waiting for lifeboats. [...] After crossing the Zhytomyr highway, we were met by a Ukrainian block post and we all shed tears. War changes people. I will never be what I was." (Anonymous, Bucha)- Testimonies collected by Eleonora Kovalko during the first weeks of the Russian invasion.

- Photos from the Ukrainian exodus in Hungary (Záhony, Beregsurány, Budapest) and Slovakia (Vyšné Nemecké, Michalovce), April 2022.

To read the story of Oksana and Iryna, who fled Ukraine with their children, go to TIME PASSES DIFFERENTLY.

Hungary 2022

Sofiia, Oksana and Iryna just arrived from their hometown Ternivka, Ukraine, to the shelter in Záhony, Hungary.

Three-year-old Sofiia* was playing with a balloon in the corridor of the school, cluttered with boxes of donated clothes and supplies. One of the volunteers was offering tea from a makeshift cafe area. It was evening and the place was filled with a tired air. Only the little ones seemed to have energy, running through the classrooms that had been converted into temporary dorms - the bunk beds pushed against the blackboard, where someone had written “дякуемо”, Ukrainian for “Thank you”. This shelter in the border town of Zahony, in Hungary, had been set up to host the people who started arriving here from Ukraine since the evening of the 24th of February 2022. Zahony’s train station is the first stop after the border. People arriving here from Chop, the last stop in Ukraine, need to pass through border control before they can board a train bound for Budapest. If they arrive at night or need some rest, the emergency shelter is available, thanks to the mayor and volunteers from the community of Zahony.Among the people staying in the shelter, were Sofiia’s mum Oksana, 26, and Iryna, 32, with her children, aged 10 and 13, and their dog. They were exhausted after a 24-hour train journey from their hometown Ternivka, in East Ukraine. As the train was covering the vast distance to the border, they had been interrupted multiple times by air-raid sirens, leading to sudden halts in the middle of nowhere. “Sofiia was terrified by that loud sound,” explained Oksana. They would then sit in the darkness, wondering how long the wait would last and trying their best to keep calm, for the children - an extra challenge on an already difficult journey.Iryna and Oksana have been friends for many years. Both their husbands and Iryna were employed at the local coal mine, while Oksana used to work as a shop assistant. Back home, even though their city was not under direct attack, they were growing increasingly worried. Oksana’s husband was still working at the mine, whilst volunteering with anti-looting patrols and helping people who were fleeing. Iryna’s husband had already been drafted and was fighting on the frontline, 23 kilometres away from their home, and only able to communicate with his wife through short messages. "He cannot share any details", she explained. The noise and smoke from the bombings getting closer eventually made them decide to leave. They were worried, but tried to stay positive and think that it would all be over soon. “It will be just a bad memory, provided we all survive…” commented Iryna.Once in Zahony, some people would already have a specific destination in mind, maybe friends or family. Many others just fled without a plan, like Iryna and Oksana. “We don’t know where to go from here and we don’t have any connections," they explained. Beside the institutional support available, many people from all over Europe have gathered donations and opened their door to host those fleeing Ukraine. Iryna and Oksana were lucky enough to be offered to stay at Chris’s house. Chris and his wife had decided to make their lake Balaton holiday home available to Ukrainian refugees. “After the war started, I realised that some people needed our house more than we did,” said Chris, “I offered to help because I could.” When the first two families they hosted decided to go to Germany, Chris drove them to the train station. He then drove all the way to Zahony again, where local volunteers helped him find someone else happy to accept his offer. Thus his car, fully packed and the dog equipped with a nappy, left the border and headed west.After spending five weeks in Chris’s house, Iryna and Oksana felt that it was safe enough for them to return home. However the situation was far from easy. Despite it being quiet in Ternivka, they could hear explosions nearby. “Planes fly, sirens ring, it's scary“ explained Iryna. “There are a lot of refugees who are left without anything. There will be no everyday life until the war is over.” Iryna’s husband has more recently become directly involved in the fighting. “It’s very scary. It’s been almost two months, but time passes differently there,” said Oksana.*Names have been changed.

You can find this story in Balkan Insight and Altreconomia.

To see more images and read more testimonies from the Ukrainian war and exodus, visit IT IS INCREDIBLY QUIET HERE.

Serbia 2022

Graffiti on a wall in Belgrade, Serbia

Graffiti on a wall in central Belgrade, Serbia.

Ibrahim* and Husam* were trying to reach Europe, but had been stuck on the Serbian side of the border for five months, as their attempts to cross had failed due to the pushbacks by the police. They had set up a small tent settlement near an abandoned factory, where many others were staying.Talking about the situation in his home country, Ibrahim shared a video from 2013 that had just been leaked. It showed blindfolded and handcuffed civilian men being told to run, before being shot by a regime intelligence officer, their bodies falling into a mass grave. “Three of my friends were killed in this way by ISIS,” explained Ibrahim.In 2011 Ibrahim was arrested in his home town of Homs. After the Friday prayer at the Mosque, his father had asked him to go buy some fish and he stopped to watch a protest against the regime, when the guards blocked the street and took almost everyone. There was no trial or official sentence. Ibrahim was just 14 years old. “The regime doesn’t care about your age, they just put you in prison,” he said. After a year, his father managed to get him out with a bribe, and he fled the country.On his journey out of Syria, in Idlib, Ibrahim met Husam. The two became friends and continued together, initially settling in Turkey. They lived in Izmir for nine years, doing all sorts of jobs. “We worked as tailors, blacksmiths, farmers, carpenters…you name it!” But conditions in Turkey are not easy for Syrian refugees. They are not granted refugee status according to the Geneva Convention but only temporary protection, which results in several limitations to their freedom of employment and movement within the country. They face heavy discrimination, as employers need to support their work permit application but have no incentive to do so. This leaves Syrians exposed to exploitation in the informal job market, preventing access to minimum wage and social security benefits. Moreover, in a country grappling with severe inflation, the climate is tense and racism is on the rise.Turkey is the country hosting the largest number of refugees worldwide, with over 3.5 million registered Syrians, but its attitude towards them is becoming increasingly harsh. Access to registration for temporary protection is severely limited and a growing number of Syrian refugees are being deported. “Turkish media lie, there is no safe place in Syria,” said Ibrahim, “Assad is still letting Russian forces conduct airstrikes.” Ibrahim and Husam applied to a resettlement scheme for the UK, but didn’t get accepted and thus decided to take matters into their own hands and come to Europe. “We want to reach a country that can give us an ID card,” concluded Ibrahim.The worst part of their journey, they said, was crossing from Turkey into Greece, due to the violent pushbacks by the police. They lost count of how many times they tried, but they think it was almost thirty. Their final, successful, attempt was also the most tragic one. It was a freezing cold night, they recalled, as they crossed the river Evros. There were three of them on the small rubber dinghy - Ibrahim, Husam and their friend Ali*. When they had almost reached the other side, the flimsy boat started to sink and they had to swim to shore. But Ali couldn’t swim. “It was dark and we couldn’t help him,” Ibrahim explained, almost justifying himself. Ali’s life was taken by the border.From Greece it took them a month to reach Northern Serbia. They decided to avoid going through Croatia, because of the renowned violence of its border police. “In Croatia they do what the Greeks do, they are brutal. We couldn’t stand any more heavy beatings, we have received enough in Greece,” said Ibrahim. They were now stuck at the Serbo-Hungarian border, along which runs a three-metre-high double fence, covered with razor wire. Its sharp blades can slice deep into flesh and are responsible for many of the injuries at this border. When people manage to cross, they are often detected by border police and returned to Serbia. After six failed attempts, Ibrahim and Husam ran into issues and lost all their money. They could no longer afford to pay the smugglers, who at the same time prevent people from attempting to cross by themselves.In the abandoned factory life was difficult. There is a state-run temporary reception centre in a nearby town but its conditions are squalid. “It’s overcrowded and skin disease is rife,” they said. Thus they preferred this makeshift accommodation. Ibrahim and Husam were sleeping in tents set up just outside the building, in the tall grass, and cooking on a fire pit built in a washing machine drum. They relied on the support of aid organisations visiting the squats on a regular basis, providing them with food, clothes, access to a camp shower once a week and basic medical care.On a day like any other, soon after the van from the independent organisation “No Name Kitchen” arrived, tea and biscuits materialised, along with dates. Music from a speaker livened up the atmosphere and Ibrahim and Husam broke into the traditional dance of Dabke, cheered by the other men. The group then joined in, including the European volunteers who tried to learn the basic steps - their attempts contributing to the cheerfulness of the moment.Ibrahim and Husam have since managed to reach Europe and have applied for asylum. Borrowing the money to complete the journey from friends and family was not easy and took time. The difficult circumstances forced them to split and they are now in two different countries but speak to each other every day. When asked about his hopes for the future, Ibrahim pondered for a little while before answering, “In Turkey refugees are accused of stealing jobs. I wish to find a country where people will not see us as a problem.”*Names have been changed.

You can find this story in Balkan Insight and Altreconomia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 2021-2022

Mara, a 68-year-old Bosnian Serb woman, lives in a border area with Croatia. She does what she can to help the many families living in abandoned houses nearby. “I feel so sorry for them," she says, "it hurts me when I see small children, a lot of them are ill and I have to give them something. I am sorry that I cannot help everybody."

"I know what it means to feel invisible," says Lejla. In 1992, at the beginning of the Bosnian war, she had to flee the country with her family. She recollects taking only one Barbie doll with her, but what was supposed to be just two weeks away from home turned into years of life as refugees. "Now I always make eye contact when I meet a migrant," explains Lejla, “they feel the same as me back then.”The people Lejla refers to, roaming the streets of Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in a temporary limbo, have fled wars, persecution or hardship and are faced with another challenge right on the doorstep of Europe. They are victims of regular and often violent pushbacks when they try to cross the border into Croatia.Official migrants reception centres often offer poor living conditions and are far from the border. Many of the makeshift shelters where migrant people are forced to live are near residential areas, and the reactions to their presence by the local communities are mixed. However, despite the complexity of the situation, in a country still dealing with its own scars, the examples of solidarity are not hard to come by.Asim is a Bosnian Muslim and was held in an internment camp during the war, from which his wife managed to free him through a prisoner exchange. Now his warm smile welcomes many of the migrant people in Bihać, where he has a small shop. "In this world we are all the same. There are some rotten apples," says Asim as he points to the fruit on display in his shop "but the majority of the people are good".Azra, a Bosnian Muslim woman, fought during the Bosnian war in the '90s. After the war finished, she wondered for a long time why she survived. She started rebuilding her family home, which had been bombed, and turned to religion, deciding to devote her life to helping others. Now she collects donations from the locals and distributes food and clothes to those in need, and she has soon become an important presence for many. “Sometimes I think I’m strong and that I can deal with all these emotions,” she says, “sometimes I just cry.”

You can find this story in Solomon as a longform and photo essay and in El Salto. It was shortlisted for the International Women in Photo Association Award and the Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award.Scars and Solidarity was exhibited at Migration Matters Festival 2023 (Sheffield, UK), as part of the group exhibition 'And They Were You' (Hastings, UK) and as a solo exhibition for Salusbury World (London, UK).

Canary Islands, Spain 2021

Spanish search and rescue vessel with 60 people from two separate boats onboard. The boats had been sighted by a yacht and a merchant vessel, respectively 67 and 5 kilometres south of Gran Canaria. This route requires sailing anywhere between 100 and 2,000 kilometres, depending on where the boats depart along the African coast. Such a wide area makes search and rescue missions extremely hard.

A young man from Senegal looks out at the horizon from the hotel where he is housed after reaching the Gran Canaria. At the end of 2020, several hotels left empty by the pandemic have been used to host migrants. While offering dignified accommodation for those who had endured so much, this also provided some financial relief to a suffering tourism industry. However, after objections by some in the local communities, the Spanish government transferred people to reception camps built ad-hoc.

“I wouldn’t face such a journey even with my 200 horse power engine” a Canarian fisherman said about people arriving from West Africa, on boats normally equipped with engines ten times less powerful.Tens of thousands of people, however, have been risking the arduous journey to Europe from Africa, through the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean, to get to the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory off the western coast of Africa.Those who make this journey mostly come from Mali, which recently saw two military coups, Senegal, Morocco and Ivory Coast, among others. Besides the toll taken by the pandemic, West African economies based on artisanal fishing have been suffering more and more because of the ever-intensifying industrial fishing off their coasts, due to agreements with Europe and illegal activities by Chinese vessels. At the same time, the tightening of other routes to Europe forced people to search for alternative ways. This has been partially due to Covid-19 measures, but in big part as a result of European efforts to contain irregular migration in the Western and Central Mediterranean.This route entails travelling long distances in small boats with inapt engines. Shipwrecks are common, and engine problems or disorientation can leave people adrift for days or even weeks, probably making this route the most dangerous way to Europe, with 4016 lives lost during 2021 alone, over twice as many than the previous year.After landing, a different nightmare begins for the survivors. The Spanish Government implemented the so called “Plan Canarias”, aimed at keeping people on the islands whilst organising repatriations whenever possible. Several new camps have been built to host people on the islands. Asylum procedures have been delayed, with many waiting to apply for international protection even months after arriving. “Mañana” - tomorrow - resonates outside the reception centre of Las Raices, in Tenerife - it’s the Spanish word that everyone knows here, as it’s the answer they receive to everything.The feeling of being trapped and the uncertainty for the future cannot but exacerbate the trauma of what people had already to endure.

You can find this story in Al Jazeera English and Altreconomia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 2021

For information on my touring exhibition FINDING HOME visit this page.

A young man from Pakistan looks towards the border he has already tried to cross 13 times in Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Along the corridors of the abandoned buildings and in the shelters where the people on the move live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, time has frozen. Thousands of people try to reach Europe along the Balkan route every year. They are coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq or Syria, among other countries. They are fleeing wars and persecutions and looking for a dignified life.Young men represent the majority of those following this route, but there are many families with young children and elderly too. After the formal closure of the Balkan route in March 2016, people were left with no other choice than to pursue irregular ways of entry. Whilst originally most went through Serbia, the tightening of the borders along this route meant that since 2018, more people started to transit from Bosnia and Herzegovina instead.The country has become a forced stop for them. In fact, people regularly report being victims of pushbacks when they try to cross the border into Croatia, and thus into Europe, what is referred to as the "game". Money, phones and personal belongings are normally subtracted by the police or special forces involved. It is not uncommon to hear that people are deprived of their shoes too, thus having to walk back barefoot for hours until they reach their shelter, sometimes even in the unbearably cold Bosnian winter. Very often the pushbacks are violent and involve beatings and the use of dogs. Most people report trying several times, even dozens of times, before being able to reach a European country where they can apply for international protection.This means months, or even years, stuck in limbo, which cannot but exacerbate the trauma of what people had to endure. They come back, each time, to the same corridors, in a limbo where time is suspended.

You can find this story in Solomon. It was shortlisted at Siena Creative Photo Awards 2021.

Nisar Alì comes from Pakistan, here they call him the German, as he can speak this language. "Now is not the time for dreaming" he tells me. He first needs to reach Europe, get his papers and a job to help his family. Azizullah is a young boy from Afghanistan. He has fled his country due to the Talibans. His dream is to reach Sweden and become a journalist, as one of those he could hear at the radio back home. Elena is a woman from Ukraine who lived for 20 years in the Netherlands, before being deported back. She is now following the Balkan route to reach the country she called home for so long, and dreams of writing a book with all what she has learned about migration during this journey. Mohamed used to work as a tailor back home in Afghanistan and he tells me that hopefully I'll take a good photo of him one day, when he'll have made himself a nice suit in Italy. Maha and Fadi are a Palestinian couple and they were living in a refugee camp in Syria. They just want to finally find a place where their children can be safe and go to school.

Greece 2019

Dimitri in a red dress, her favourite colour, to celebrate St. Dimitri's day. Her hands show her grace. Her eyes, the scars and the pride of her battle.

Dimitri proudly looking at the religious icons she had filled the wall of her bedroom with.

Dimitri was born in the small fishing village of Skála Sikaminéas, on the Greek island of Lesvos, and, at the age of 14, she told her parents that she was a girl.She struggled to be accepted throughout her life and experienced tough times, living in a mental institution during her childhood, as well as years of homelessness in Athens. She had to fight for her right to cross the invisible border of gender identity. After her parents passed away, she started wearing women's clothes.Dimitri told me she now feels comfortable with her identity and appearance. In the little sunny harbour of Skála, she walks with her head held high. Dimitri lives in the house she grew up in, where her battle began. She covered the walls with religious images, as she is very devout, like her mother. She loves opera, especially Maria Callas, and often plays it very loud, filling the calm air of Skála with melancholy.When I asked her why she often looks sad, she said it's because of all the horrible things happening in the world, and she wasn't just referring to what she learns from the news. There is in fact another story, hidden in the background, one of forced migration, which Dimitri can witness first-hand. The invisible border between Turkey and Greece lies in the water just a few kilometres behind her. Thousands of people risk their life to cross it every year, fleeing conflict or persecution. Women, children and men, seeking refuge in Europe, land on this island, often on the shores of her very own village.

Invisible border won Portrait of Humanity 2021 and received an honorable mention in Photography 4 Humanity Global Prize 2020.It was featured in The Times, in CNN Style, and in the book Portrait of Humanity Vol 3 by Hoxton Mini Press. It was exhibited at PHOTO 2021 (Melbourne, Australia), Belfast Photo Festival 2021, and Indian Photo Festival 2021.Dimitri's story was also selected for the Pride Photo Exhibition 2023, starting in Amsterdam on the 31st of March 2023 and travelling around the Netherlands for a year.

June 2021: Our society has failed you, beautiful candid soul. Skala will not be the same without your Maria Callas filling the air with melancholy.

Malaysia 2019

Making Mantu.

A small flat in a 15 storey building in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has become home to Zhara, Malika and Hussain, three young siblings from Afghanistan. They are Hazaras and they had to flee their home country, where Hazara people are still facing ethnic and religious discrimination and persecution.In Kuala Lumpur, Hussain provides for his sisters by working in a bakery. He is the eldest. “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” These are his words on a social media profile, showing his resilience. Malika, the youngest, is really good with languages and often acts as an interpreter from Farsi to English for the others. She teaches English in kindergarten, in the local community centre for Afghan refugees, to kids aged four to five. ‘They are cute, but also a bit naughty’, she says laughing. Malika has the most hilarious and sweet laugh. Zhara is a beautiful young woman, with a more composed personality than her sister. She cooks delicious Afghan dishes that remind her of home, as she is not very fond of the local cuisine. Zhara dreams of one day becoming a doctor.

Malaysia however didn't sign the 1951 Refugee Convention and it doesn't recognise the refugee status. Yet there are 160 thousand registered refugees in the country, and many more unregistered. They are mostly Rohingya refugees who escaped from Myanmar, but other nationalities are present too - Syrians, Yemenis and Afghans amongst them.They aren’t allowed to work and cannot attend state schools, while the cost of private ones is too high for most of them to afford. They can only rely on UNHCR-issued ID cards. Under Malaysian law they are liable to arrest or deportation, but showing this card provides some protection. Since they aren’t allowed to work legally they have no choice but working off the books, with very low wages and no protection. What is worse, if the police find them working, they can be arrested or sometimes have to bribe them in exchange for turning a blind eye. It's a limbo similar to many asylum seekers awaiting a decision in Europe, the difference being, for them it will last until Malaysia changes its policy relating to refugees. The chance of relocation to a third country that could provide asylum is slim and the process can take years. The USA being the main country of resettlement from Malaysia, the chances have recently become even slimmer due the policies implemented by the Trump administration.This is Zhara, Malika, Hussain and many others’ everyday reality. Trapped between a painful past and a bleak future, far from home, they are relying on their incredible resilience.Names have been changed.


I often, almost instinctively, find myself capturing mental snapshots of what I see. Sometimes I also take an actual photo!"Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of his own self." Marcel Proust

London, United Kingdom