Photographs can bring humanity to situations that are hard to fathom and imagine. March marked three years since the start of conflict in Syria. Pro-democracy protestors were met with violence from the government in 2011, and the problems show little sign of abating. Since the conflict began, 5.7 million children have had their lives negatively affected. Ten thousand have been killed, and many more have suffered injuries. But facts like this are difficult to digest on their own. The Children of Syria brings the work of six international photojournalists together in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C..
The photographers have been documenting the problems facing Syrian children and refugee camps for various publications. ART WORKS, a non-profit organization that looks to use the arts to raise awareness about human rights issues, pulled their works together for a special exhibition held at the seat of power in Washington. The six contributors are:
- Lynsey Addario has traveled across the Middle East photographing Syria’s Refugees and other humanitarian issues.
- Kate Brooks photographed her first assignment on Syrian refugees in Lebanon for UNICEF in 2012 and has been alternating her time between documenting the lives of Syrian refugees and conservation issues for the last year.
- Bassam Khabieh, a Syrian photojournalist with Reuters, began documenting what was happening in his home.
- Javier Manzano is a Mexican photographer based in the Middle East who covered the Syrian uprising.
- Ayman Oghanna has worked as a photojournalist in Syria and throughout the Arab world.
- And Tara Todras-Whitehill began a project on the communities surrounding the refugee camps in Turkey two years ago and later traveled to Jordan to document refugee camps for the New York Times.
As Brooks explained in an email, “Over the past two years I worked on this issue, and I think one of the most shocking things I have witnessed and documented was child laborers being verbally abused and hit by landowners while working in agricultural fields. On average, children earn $3 per day for 8-10 hours of labor. I also met a young woman who was in college. She had to abandoned her studies; she chose saving her life over her future – and now picks beans to survive.”
“It’s such a hard thing when you read so much news. People’s eyes start glazing over at some point because they just get so immune to all the things that are happening. But I think with pictures of the children I think it really touches people’s hearts,” says Todras-Whitehill. “I think all of our hopes are that people will feel an attachment to the kids.”
“The consequences of what is happening now are going to play out for years to come. We’re talking about a lost generation of children,” writes Brooks.
‘The Children of Syria’ exhibit is currently on display and will be through Friday morning. The opening reception will be held Thursday, May 22 and will include speeches from Senator John McCain, Executive Director of the Better World Campaign Peter Yeo, Founder and Executive Director of ART WORKS Projects Leslie Thomas, and Samer Attar, MD, with the Syrian American Medical Society.
Read more: Smithsonian.com