Capturing the Urban Refugee

Jun 20, 2013 5:30pm

 

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Lanier Lovely, displaced by the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, pictured with her son, Lovinsky, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Lanier was raped while living in a displaced persons camp and became pregnant as a result.

In his new multimedia project, “Hidden Lives: The Untold Story of Urban Refugees,” photographer Andrew McConnell turns his lens on the plight of the urban refugee. From families pouring across the Kenyan border fleeing war-torn Somalia to the tens of thousands of Syrians trading brutal violence in their country for makeshift refugee camps in Jordan, McConnell traveled across four continents to document the struggles of the perennially displaced.

Yet rather than simply capturing gritty life in tented, sprawling camps, McConnell utilizes artfully produced portraits and film shorts to explore his subjects. The result is a collection of absorbing media projects that successfully manages to open a unique window into the often bleak lives of a refugee

“I wanted to draw attention to this beyond the strict reportage we’re generally used to, ” says McConnell, an award-winning photographer who’s work regularly appears in international newspapers and magazines.  ”For me, the project  goes far beyond life in the camps and gives us a real window into their lives.”

The Irish-born McConnell now resides in Beirut where his intrepid photojournalism for Panos Pictures, an independent agency specializing in documentary photography, has taken him to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Western Sahara.

“Hidden Lives” also draws attention to the growing numbers of refugees moving to large towns and cities to escape persecution in their homelands. More than half of the world’s estimated 10,5 million refugees now live in urban areas, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) McConnell explores this new reality for refugees in eight cities across four continents.

Works from “Hidden Lives: The Untold Story of Urban Refugees” will also be on view at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine  in New York City from June 21 through August 30. Below, a few images  from the project. The film shorts can be viewed here.

 

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Somali refugee, Iftin Ahmed Farah, from Mogadishu, pictured in the neighbourhood of Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya. Eastleigh is home to large numbers of Somali refugees and many complain of harassment from the Kenyan police

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Dejana Mekanic, 31, from Bosnia, temporarily living in London, UK. Dejana fled Bosnia at the beginning of the war in the Balkans and lived in Kosovo and Germany before being resettled in the US.

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Tikaram and Chandra Chapagai, from Bhutan, pictured on the roof of their apartment in Queens, New York, USA. The couple spent 16 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before being accepted for resettlement in the USA.

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