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Do you see what I see?

For the past three years, I have covered refugees from around the world. Some come from sophisticated countries. Others have never seen a flushing toilet. Their languages, cultures and experiences are vastly different. But there is one almost universal trait: The children are all fascinated by cameras. Some have used high-end digital cameras. Others have never seen one. But most of the children will jump in front of a camera or ham it up for a photo. And when they hold a camera in their hands, their faces light up. They love to take pictures. I’ve often thought a very cool project would be to get cameras donated and let the kids document their resettlement into the Fredericksburg area. The UNHCR has created a similar program at refugee camps.

Professional photographer Brendan Bannon held workshops and taught the kids the basics. The exhibit, called “Do You See What I See?” is up on flickr.

The photographs are stunning and a vivid reminder of the power of photography.

Bannon wrote:

We wanted to create images that expressed the hopes, dreams, experiences and futures of the children in the camp. To do so we had to prepare to go beyond the conventions of African portrait photography into a somewhat different world of action, creative composition, and reflection…

They were also empowered by using a camera to make pictures that honored their parents, celebrated their siblings and amused their friends. They explained themselves to each other, and became closer in the process. Together, they gave a clear idea of their lives, lives rich in experience, emotion, history, fantasy, humor and compassion…

What emerges in these pictures is a commentary on humanity – proposing what to them is love, what is suffering, what is funny, what can be discovered about self, family, history and community: What makes us alike and what makes us different.