In September 2016, photographer Giles Duley joined forces with band Massive Attack to show their support for refugees at a concert in Bristol, UK.
In recent years I’ve been collaborating with poets, writers and musicians, seeking opportunities to reach new audiences and tell stories in innovative ways. Massive Attack were one of the bands I’d been talking to, and working together to highlight the refugee crisis seemed like a perfect and timely collaboration.
“I was deeply moved by the pictures he was sending me,” recalls Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja. “What’s really shocking is that you could be looking at photographs from any time in the last 100 years of a crisis involving refugee migration and war. And what’s terrifying is you think ‘Nothing’s changed,’ and that is what we have to engage with because this is not the past. This is now.”
In early September 2016, I made my way down to Bristol to see the final outcome of the collaboration. While the rain fell, I sat on the side of the stage waiting for the final track, ‘Unfinished Sympathy’. As it played, the portraits appeared behind the band – projected 30 feet high, dominating the stage, onto vast screens with the words “In This Together” written across them.
“Working together to highlight the refugee crisis seemed like a perfect and timely collaboration.”
A good portrait creates empathy, a certain understanding, a moment of intimacy with a stranger. But while for most they were nameless faces, for me each was a memory from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Each portrait had a name and a story – Kraymeh, Ranim, Halima, Murad… I hoped I’d done them justice.
As Shavgar’s image came up, I took a photograph and sent it to his mother, Nesrin, in Domiz refugee camp, in northern Iraq. She immediately posted it on her Facebook page. “Thank you for remembering us,” read the caption.
That, for me, was the moment that made everything worthwhile.
That, for me, is what it means to say: “We are in this together. I stand with refugees.”