Brandon Stanton gives refugees a voice in his new photo series

Brandon Stanton, the talented photographer behind the famous photojournalistic blog ‘Humans of New York or HONY in short, is now working on a series that allows refugees to tell their story and share their journey with the world. For those who are not familiar with the Humans of New York concept, Brandon would initially stroll through the streets of New York city, photographing strangers and allowing them to share a piece of themselves. Now he’s not exclusively taking pictures of New Yorkers, but he often takes his concept to other cities too. Not long ago he did a series in different cities in Pakistan and Iran.

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Brandon is currently staying in Greece. His main goal: finding as many stories as he can, he says in his introduction. He wants to share the refugees’ journey and what they have been through and still are going through. And what better way to do that than have the refugees share these stories themselves?

As expected the photo series is quite the rollercoaster, there’s a lot of pain and sadness involved. The stories are often heartbreaking. To give you an idea, these are a few stories that were shared on Brandon’s blog.

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“I wish I could have done more for her. Her life has been nothing but struggle. She hasn’t known many happy moments. She never had a chance to taste childhood. When we were getting on the plastic boat, I heard her say something that broke my heart. She saw her mother being crushed by the crowd, and she screamed: ‘Please don’t kill my mother! Kill me instead!'” (Lesvos, Greece)

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“My husband and I sold everything we had to afford the journey. We worked 15 hours a day in Turkey until we had enough money to leave. The smuggler put 152 of us on a boat. Once we saw the boat, many of us wanted to go back, but he told us that anyone who turned back would not get a refund. We had no choice. Both the lower compartment and the deck were filled with people. Waves began to come into the boat so the captain told everyone to throw their baggage into the sea. In the ocean we hit a rock, but the captain told us not to worry. Water began to come into the boat, but again he told us not to worry. We were in the lower compartment and it began to fill with water. It was too tight to move. Everyone began to scream. We were the last ones to get out alive. My husband pulled me out of the window. In the ocean, he took off his life jacket and gave it to a woman. We swam for as long as possible. After several hours he told me he that he was too tired to swim and that he was going to float on his back and rest. It was so dark we could not see. The waves were high. I could hear him calling me but he got further and further away. Eventually a boat found me. They never found my husband.” (Kos, Greece)

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“A friend called me at work and told me that a sniper had shot my youngest brother. I rushed to the clinic and he was lying there with a bandage on his head. I unwrapped the bandage to help treat the wound with alcohol, and small pieces of brain were stuck to it. The doctor told me: ‘Unless you get him to Damascus, he will die.’ I panicked. The road to Damascus went straight through Raqqa and was very dangerous. It took ten hours, because we could only take back roads and we had to drive very far out of the way. My brother was in the back seat, and after a very short time he started to vomit bile. Water was pouring from his eyes. I didn’t know what to do. I was so scared. I thought for sure he was dying. But somehow I got him to the hospital. He’s paralyzed now and his speech is slow. His memory is OK. He can remember old things. He needs an operation in his eye. We used to do everything together, and now he can’t do anything. He can only move his hand. I’m trying to get him to Germany because I hear that maybe the doctors there can help him.”

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“They fired rockets from a mountain near our house. They were very loud, and every time he heard them, he’d run into his room and close the door. We’d tell him fake stories. We’d tell him that there was nothing to worry about, and that the rockets were far away and they would never reach us. Then one day after school he was waiting in a line of school buses. And a rocket hit the bus in front of him. Four of his friends were killed.” (Kos, Greece)

You noticed that these stories are really personal and intimate. All of a sudden the word ‘refugees’ isn’t just a term anymore that you hear about on the news. The word becomes an actual face. Faces of people that have been going through the most horrible situations. If you’d like to see more of this series, you can take a look at Brandon Stanton’s blog on one of his social media accounts.

Written by Latifa Saber

Latifa Saber

Latifa Saber is a 21-year-old student with strong opinions on pretty much everything. Feminism, literature and fashion are her main fields of interest.

  • Fen

    All of these people could have done what they’re supposed to do as true refugees, which is stop running in the first safe nation they set foot in, and for most of these people, would have been Turkey. All those lost at sea would still be alive, including the little propaganda child who’s photo has been used to force open the gates of European nations that seriously don’t owe you people anything.

    I’ve seen video after video of migrants leaving absolute filth and trash in their wakes throughout Europe, fighting and sectarian violence in migrant housing centers, and outright refusals to take aid being offered because it wasn’t “good enough”. You people are taking the piss, plain and simple. Europe doesn’t owe you anything.