Living after displacement: Rich Wiles’ four year collaboration using the al-Hindawi family

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Re-worked family members archive photograph. © Rich Wiles/al-Hindawi family.

“At its cardiovascular, this exhibition is a tale of family, ” says Wiles. “Photography is not just something which is done by ‘photographers’. These types of pictures are part of their particular story. ”

It has been 10 years of tumultuous change for the al-Hindawi family. In 2011, dad Rami and mother Ruba lived in Homs, Syria with their three children, Mustapha, Yazan and Hanan. The civil war had broken out that year, and the city was fast becoming a rebel stronghold. Rami proved helpful as a driver, while Ruba was an assistant within a photo processing lab – but when armed forces laid siege to Homs, they had to obtain out.

Now the al-Hindawis live in Driffield, east Yorkshire, and they are about to put on an exhibition. In Which Language Perform We Dream? , which opens on Bradford’s Impressions Gallery these days, is put together by professional photographer Rich Wiles . The work documents Rami and Ruba’s new comes from the UK, where they came four years ago under a resettlement scheme, having initially fled to Lebanon in 2012.  

“At its heart, this particular exhibition is a story associated with family, ” says Wiles. In one photo, Mustapha plus Yazan – the two boys – explore a sun-dappled Yorkshire canalside with a college friend. Another shows your fourth and youngest child, Rayan – who was born in the UK – sitting contently within the sofa, surrounded by her plastic toys. Compared to the upheaval that has marked the family’s recent history, the functions are peaceful and contemplative – and that is the point.

Rayan photographed while playing in her living room at home. © Rich Wiles.

Ruba photographed throughout a day out to the East Yorkshire coast in Flamborough. © Rich Wiles.

“I don’t think this is the stereotypical way that we see asylum seekers photographed, and I’m pleased about that, ” Wiles states. “If you type ‘refugees’ into Google it will give you a number of images of people wearing lemon life jackets coming across the particular Mediterranean. That is clearly an enormous part of the broader story associated with displaced people… but I believe it is also important to understand the lengthier context, and what happens afterwards. ”

This attitude arises partly from Wiles’ own experience, of living and working in a refugee get away in Palestine for 7 years. In 2015, he was shortlisted for the Sony World Photography Awards to get a series exploring the Palestinian Circus School , a project that was founded in 2006 to teach contemporary circus skills to the younger generation across the West Bank.  

“The media oversimplifies what it means to be somewhere like Palestine without ever really heading any deeper, ” he says. “Yes, things could be terrible there. People die, property is colonised, houses are usually demolished. But there are also wedding ceremonies, parties, circus schools, football games with the kids, laughter and jokes and all those other things. For me, because I invest a lot of myself straight into doing things, I attempt to go deeper and find out what else there is that people may not understand within a wider story. ”

Mustapha and Yazan with friends alongside the local canal. © Rich Wiles.

“Photography is not just something which is done by ‘photographers’. These types of family pictures are part of their story. ”

Hanan (right) and Rayan photographed by their mother, Ruba, while playing with a dog in their neighbours garden. © al-Hindawi household.

The same is true of their project with the al-Hindawis, who seem to he became close friends along with as it progressed. “I are not a photojournalist, I don’t always believe that I have to be unattached from a story. In fact , it really is probably the opposite of that, ” he says. “It is clear that will my relationship with Rami and Ruba has affected the type of photographs that have eliminated into the exhibition. ”

Indeed, many are taken by family members on their own. The girls play with a dog since the sun sets in a neighbour’s garden; the boys lay beneath a bed transfixed to a touchscreen tablet. Other people date from their time in Syria. One is of Hanan, the particular older of the two young ladies, when she was still a baby. Her own, more recent, handwriting is overlaid: “We is at Homs then we whent to Lebonan because there was obviously a fite in Syria and after we wanted to go back but the fire didn’t stop. ”

“Photography is not just a thing that is completed by ‘photographers’, ” says Wiles. “These family images are part of their story. They have been sent to relatives overseas via Whatsapp, and are an essential way of communicating. They may not be purists’ photographs, and they may not be pictures that can be blown up printed large on a gallery wall – but they do say something of the importance of photography. ”

For the viewer, the family pictures evoke an intimacy that is measured but nonetheless disarming. Wiles hopes they will prompt visitors to “just stop and believe, and to form their own views about issues of shift directly from people who have got resided experience of it”. Especially, this individual adds, after the febrile political atmosphere that has surrounded immigration in recent years. “I hope the particular family’s voices will directly emanate out through this work, ” he provides. “For me, that is the most important thing. ”

In Which Vocabulary Do We Dream? runs from ’07 August to 13 Nov at Impressions Gallery, Bradford. The exhibition is a co-created project, bringing together a five-year photographic collaboration between Rich Wiles and the al-Hindawi family through discussions with curator Anne McNeill at Opinions Gallery.

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