Education through Photography

Andy Prahl, volunteered as a photographer in our latest distribution trip in Greece.

As back to school season approaches, many of us have education on the brain and with The Unmentionables' Back to School Week coming soon, what better time to share our exciting project! Whenever a new school year starts it's inevitable that we look back on our summer to consider what we've learned and what we'd like to achieve in the coming year.

This summer, I spent a few weeks with The Unmentionables in Greece volunteering my photography services. Meeting refugees, I realized that they all have their own story. Most refugees can communicate that story in writing, but very few can communicate it visually. While words often fail to express the extent of a situation, particularly where language barriers prevent deeper expression, photography can play a helping hand. The Unmentionables launched a new project titled "From Where I Stand: Refugees" in Greece, with the aim of providing a platform through photography for refugees to tell their stories.

I have been working for the past month on the From Where I Stand: Refugees project. The goal of this project is to teach talented refugees the skills needed to operate professional camera equipment, supply them with such equipment, and ultimately enable them to tell their stories through photography. The Unmentionables' incredible partners, Grace & Green, sponsored one of the cameras used by one of our female refugee students, enabling her to participate in this project. Artistic communication has several benefits, for example it requires no language skills, and there is always some truth to a picture being worth 1000 words. Most importantly, while almost every written or oral story from a refugee is the result of heavy editing or guided interviews by a NGO or journalists, a photograph captures the world as a refugee sees it, unedited and raw.

One of the photography teachers, Stergios, points out some focusing tricks on the camera equipment to a student during an indoors photo class session.

One of the photography teachers, Stergios, points out some focusing tricks on the camera equipment to a student during an indoors photo class session.

On a class photo field trip to the National Gardens, Stergios acts as a model again for another student. It must look quite odd to onlookers when eight people, all loaded brimming with camera gear, go wandering past while clicking away at just about everything.

On a class photo field trip to the National Gardens, Stergios acts as a model again for another student. It must look quite odd to onlookers when eight people, all loaded brimming with camera gear, go wandering past while clicking away at just about everything.

The four students in our first photography class have been nothing short of astounding in their dedication to learning and they have all shown natural talent that many professional photographers would dream of! As they came to class each week, I could see the hardships of their journey here, the struggle of their current life in a refugee camp, and the fascination with some of the things we take for granted in our countries. All of these things were beautifully communicated in photographs - creating a visual story that was utterly compelling. In the end, I hope that my students are able to use these skills in their personal and professional lives.  An online gallery space will soon be launched in a few weeks where we will be displaying some of the photographs, stay tuned to find out more!

So as we near the start of another school year, I remain reflecting on the things I have learned from the very students I taught. If you'd like to support The Unmentionables' future education projects like this, donate today!