The stories of people on the move are often told through dispatches from reporters who drop in periodically to cover the “migrant and refugee crisis,” thereby privileging an outside perspective. People on the move are frequently nameless and dehumanized, deepening the rift between them and the local population, creating an atmosphere of alienation, antipathy, and, too often, violence.
This event begins with a presentation by David Campbell discussing research on the politics of refugee representations. It then showcases a project that mitigates this fragmented and distorted narrative by providing migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina with basic media training and a portal, “Dispatches in Exile,” through which to publish their reports and tell their stories directly.
The “Dispatches in Exile” project is led by VII Academy curator Ziyah Gafic and produced in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Ziyah will discuss how this project was created, its purpose, and its impact.
David Campbell: Great. So welcome to this VII Insider event on representing refugees. I wanted to set up this event because I know that Ziyah has been involved in this tremendous program called Dispatches in Exile, which is working with refugee communities in the Balkan region here and in particular, Bosnia. And also because it’s been an interest of mine for some time in research. And I thought this was an opportunity to actually set some of our normal image discussions and photographic discussions, kind of in a political and research context as well. So, in this event, what I’m going to do is begin myself with a short presentation on two pieces of research that focus on how the media has covered in various places refugee issues, and how people, particularly in Europe, have responded to that. Because I also think that one of the key themes that we want to look at in some of these events, is the relationship between photography and imagery, and the kind of politics and the kind of responses that that imagery can both allow and permit and perhaps even encourage. To have a really, a more complex understanding of the way in which images factor into political issues, and help shape political issues. So, to do that, I’m also going to just share a short presentation and talk that through with you. Let me just bring that up. So back in 2013, with a couple of other colleagues at the University of Queensland where I have an affiliation, we did this project on the visual dehumanization of refugees in the Australian media. And the refugee issue in Australia has been a fraught one for the last 20-25 years. There was a time when Australia was very hospitable to refugees post the Vietnam War. It accepted 75,000, Vietnamese in 1975, which is a very big thing and it enriched the country greatly. But since about 2000 onwards, it’s been much more hostile to refugees, and has had border security policies. And we wanted to research how media coverage was potentially playing a role in shaping that emphasis on refugees as a security issue versus refugees as a humanitarian issue and a human issue. The situation in Australia is that there have been a lot of people in the period we looked at, which was the late 1990s to 2011, arriving by boats, using the services of people smugglers. So, this is very much something that is similar to other locations in the world. And in that period, a little over a decade, about 30,000 individuals arrived on 500 boats. So it’s actually not a huge issue in terms of numbers for a country that’s got a population of 25 million, which is as vast as Australia. But politically, it was a really hot issue, a very salient issue. And one that depended upon media coverage. And this, I think, is an interesting point for people to think about, of course, is that when it comes to international events, and political events, and so on, all our knowledge is quite literally mediated. We rely on the media. Very few of us have direct experience of encountering refugees arriving on the shore or individuals trying to flee persecution, or escape war or improve their lives. We only learn about it by the way it is represented to us. And therefore, while I don’t think that images determine things and fix things by themselves, they do play an extremely important role when you don’t have direct experience on these issues, which is probably in this case, the situation for most people. So, what we did in this research was we did what’s called content analysis where we took samples from newspaper front pages. And just a footnote there. Of course, this is looking in the 2000s when print newspapers were still kind of one of the major purveyors of news. If you were doing content analysis now, you would have to have a much more nuanced understanding of the role of web and app and smartphones and so on. We did this content analysis of two newspapers, one a more liberal newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, and one a more conservative newspaper, The Australian. And we sampled them in 2001 and 2009. And we looked at the frequency of front pages showing migrants and refugees. And there were two tendencies. One was overwhelming, and one was very small. The overwhelming tendency was to portray people arriving on boats by showing the boats, but most importantly, showing the people at a distance, medium distance, and in groups, medium sized groups or large groups, rather than as individuals.
And this front page from the Australian newspaper is pretty typical of that. You can’t make out the refugees as individuals, you can’t make them out as, as people, you don’t hear their stories, you see them as a large group moving on a boat, etc. And this morning, actually, I was listening to the BBC World Service reporting on the situation on the Belarus-Poland border. And it was very interesting actually how the text and the audio in that story replicated what you see in this image. It referred to the migrants, the mass, it didn’t name anyone, it didn’t speak to any individuals or whatever. So it’s not only images that are doing this, it’s also other forms of reporting that are doing this. And then what we determined was that in fact, more than two thirds of the front pages in that period, portrayed refugees coming to Australia, as in medium sized groups, or large groups, and very few as individuals. And a smaller number of small groups. They are referred to of course, as asylum seekers, people seeking asylum, seeking refuge in Australia. And it was the same for both newspapers, whether more liberal, more conservative. Now, the thing about portraying people in groups like that is that you don’t get to see them as individuals, you don’t get to see their faces as individuals. And so, the other factor was that only 2% of the content of these papers, the front pages of these papers, only 2% showed refugees as individuals. The rest were literally without features. They were not visible features, they were just seen as a mass. And this is a rare example of a front page where you do get to see a woman as an individual. You get to hear her story. She’s lamenting the fact that 353 people perished, drowned on the way to Australia. As you point out, in that decade, more than 1000 people have drowned, and the number is now much higher. So just like in the Mediterranean, we have— even in the Southern Ocean—the same situation of people perishing at sea, trying to seek refuge in other countries. Now, in social psychology, there’s a term called the identifiable victim effect. And when you only see people as a mass and not as individuals, you’re shaping things so that it’s seen as a security issue, it’s seen as a threat, it’s seen as external. And social psychologists have done lots and lots of research over the years that suggests that if you do see people as individuals, and you can identify them as victims, then you can prompt compassion in the viewing audience. There are a lot of questions still to ask about this. Is compassion, the right thing that you want to prompt? Do you instead want to prompt a political issue? And, of course, what are the issues about showing people as victims and identifiable victims. But the point I’m just making here is that when you see people as individuals, social psychologists have established that there is a particular response. And when you see people as a group mass, there’s another response, which is one that sees it as a security issue rather than a humanitarian issue. So this content research, which ended up concluding that there were 20 times more images of boats than individuals in the media coverage suggests that the issue is being framed for people to consume. The research doesn’t say that people did consume it that way because everyone approaches stories in a particular way. But the overall framing of the issue was as a security issue, not a humanitarian issue. So, the second piece of research I want to point to, and if anyone’s interested in getting references or even copies of these, email me. I’m happy to send you things and talk some more about that. The second piece of research was published this year, and was done by a research team in London and involved, instead of doing content analysis, what was the media showing, this research is about the audience. How does the audience react? And interestingly, what they did was they took prize-winning photojournalism from the years 2016 to 2020, world famous photographers who won major international awards, and have covered refugee and migrant issues. And then they showed these images to samples of 4,000 people across Europe. They gave them various surveys to elicit their responses and their views. And you get a sense then of what that coverage, which also established that these photographers were portraying people in large numbers as a mass moving, not in terms of identifiable individuals. This research was demonstrating how did the audience actually react to that. And the surveys demonstrated that
it wasn’t eliciting compassion, and so on. It was in fact, people seeing those images were starting to favor authoritarian political parties, authoritarian political leaders, and they were favoring anti-refugee policies and so on. This is not the fault of individual photojournalists. This is not their problem. Though, it would be interesting for people to reflect on this and think about that, because it’s about how various media outlets use their images and shape the stories in particular ways. But this is an important piece of research, because it suggests that whereas our first piece of research said, we think it frames the issue for individuals in this way, this piece of research with survey shows, it did frame the issue in Europe in the last few years, in exactly that way, the way we expected. So again, it’s not images alone that are driving these, what we would see as counterproductive and negative responses, because images are also always associated with pieces of information. But they play a very important role. And the final line in this article, which I think is worth quoting, really summarizes the point I want to establish from this context before handing over to Ziyah. And the authors write, the decision of what is made visible, and how, should be thought of as a choice that has consequences for the ways in which we perceive and relate to other human beings. And that decision is a decision made by photographers going to a particular place and photographing in a particular way. It’s made by their editors. And then it’s made by publications. It’s made by websites, and so on. So, the decision of what is made visible, and how, should be thought of as a choice with consequences, in which we look for the ways in which we perceive and relate to other human beings. And I think that’s an essential point to keep in mind as we think about how refugees are represented and what the alternatives are. And so Ziyah, I’ll hand over to you to talk about the Dispatches and Exile project as one of the alternatives.
Ziyah Gafic: May I just go back a little bit to what you mentioned here? I’ve seen in the chatroom that people would love to see some of the links to this research. So it would be…
David Campbell: Absolutely.
Ziyah Gafic: But I have a few, I would say questions, but it can also be a conversation. When you look at— when you show those—Well, for example, I won’t bother you going back to those charts.
David Campbell: Right.
Ziyah Gafic: But for many—so my question would be, so why do we get that imagery published? Okay?
David Campbell: Right.
Ziyah Gafic: So, why do we do stuff the way we do? And several things come to my mind. I know from my perspective of a practitioner, is that photographers and whatever visual content makers are often looking for easiest visual solution to a situation. Okay?
David Campbell: Yeah.
Ziyah Gafic: And we can’t really blame them, because— well, we can blame them, of course, but I can empathize with them, because I’ve been there. And I am there. Because you know, you have to respond to certain visual situation in a very short fraction of time. And you are on the deadline, and you kind of anticipate what the client wants, and so on and so forth. And you go for that particular shot. So what I’m trying to say or ask is like, who are the gate—you know, we keep hearing and I actually love that word—who are the gatekeepers of this imagery? Okay, so obviously, we can assign blame to photographer because had photographer not taken that picture, it wouldn’t be published, right? So that’s your front row responsibility. Okay. And then there is obviously responsibility of the publishers or called whatever, media publishers. And I’m really curious, you know, once you presented the second part of research or second research, it seems to me as if the media are in cahoots, as the Americans would say, with the, let’s say, rising right wing parties or in case of Australia at the time, policy towards refugees and migrants. And if that’s the case, then we are really doomed. So, that’s really scary. And I just I really love what the research, if you can read it properly, tells us. So, it’s really scary research. I’m not surprised by any of that. Anyway, that’s sort of. So yeah, so that’s the question. Who? How do we share the blame?
David Campbell: Yeah, I guess a couple of things in response. I mean, I wouldn’t want to think about it as blame, actually, because it’s not that it’s like someone’s making a mistake and if everyone just did this, we’d have a better outcome and so on. You know, it’s a complex system by which certain stories are covered, how they’re covered, various people from, you know, photographers, to people doing text articles, and so on, to publications, to the editors at various levels, etc, to, you know, social media platforms, distributing them by algorithms, etc. From story to consumption, it’s a very complex system. So you can’t just say, Oh, there’s the problem. Because blame also suggests that someone is kind of knowingly making a mistake and if we corrected it, then everything would be better. It’s much more difficult than that. What I want to suggest here is, as that last line says, the decisions about what is made visible and how it’s made visible, have certain effects. Let’s understand what those effects are. So, therefore I also wouldn’t say that the media is in cahoots with those political movements. Because again, it’s not on the surface, a conscious choice. Obviously, for some media, it is. There are exceptions. But it’s the fact that it is framing an issue in a particular way that has a particular tendency, and a particular consequence to that. That makes it much more complex to deal with.
Ziyah Gafic: Sure, I can say, yeah, blame may not be the most…
David Campbell: Yeah. There are responsibilities, there are responsibilities. And I think that what we’re certainly— what I’m suggesting here is that the fundamental responsibility is to reflect on this. To think about what are the possible consequences of the decisions made to cover this and to cover it in this way.
Ziyah Gafic: And just before I start talking, I think the word dehumanizing is such an ominous word, because we know that throughout the history, and contemporary times, it’s always been a part of very violent policies, which at some point ended up in, you know, crimes. So I think that’s really—but it’s very accurate, I would say, and very ominous. Anyway, I’m going to share a screen if you let me. But before that, so my interest in refugees, and later on as a photographer in portraying and visualizing of refugees, migrants, people on the move—we can debate on the nomenclature, I prefer people on the move—started when I was refugee. And, because I was, during the war in Bosnia, I was away for a year and a half. I was a refugee. I was what you can call a model refugee. I’m sure people in America can relate to that term. But only in America. I had a very comfortable refugee time. I was in Italy. I was at school, a scholarship. I mean, I’m embarrassed to say how comfortable it was, but I was refugee. I was. I left my hometown in my country, which you can see on the map and on the screen, in 1992, because of war. So there was no doubt about the nature of my displacement. And even with all that comfort that I won’t say enjoyed, but I can surely say enjoyed. There was always a feeling of being uprooted. And that was really, I think, the biggest, one of the biggest burdens that often gets neglected when it comes to people on the move. This sense of being uprooted from your home, homeland, hometown or home. Just home. It’s, I would dare to say it’s really crippling feeling and it’s a deeply traumatizing feeling. And I don’t think it really matters if you left your home because of economic issues, because of war, or because you simply wanted something else for yourself and then you were forced to take this dangerous journey to a better life. But it’s a deeply crippling. experience. I can vouch to that. And then later on to my photographic practice as a photojournalist, I’ve covered refugee crisis in many different countries, in Pakistan, in Kosovo, actually, my career started with covering refugee crisis in Kosovo in 1999. And then obviously, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon, all around the world. And so, I had a bit of an experience as in that traditional way of a journalist, photojournalist going somewhere and telling someone else’s story, because that’s what we do, we tell other people’s stories. And you know, we have— everything happens under this assumption that we are giving the voice to the voiceless. And it does sound cliche, and it is. But over the years, as I got older, I realized that I’m not always the most—I’m not the best person to maybe tell someone’s stories and when the,
as they like to call it, migrant crisis arrived to Bosnia, which, just for those who don’t know, Bosnia during the war in 90s, had 50% of its population displaced, which is a massive, massive displacement internally and externally. And we still have a million people outside of the country, which never came back. And that includes also their offspring. But let’s say we have a million people who never came back after the war. So once, if you look at this map, and I’ll quickly get to what I’m showing you, but just to give a bit of a background. For those who don’t know, one of the main gateways to Europe, used to be via Turkey, Greece, and then to Serbia, and then to Hungary, and you’re in EU. Serbia is not EU member. Hungary is both EU member and Schengen member, meaning once you are in EU— sorry. Once you are in Hungary, there are no borders all the way to Sweden. And that was the preferred route and it worked for a while, but then thanks to the right wing, I would dare to say almost fascist government in Hungary, they really went hard on people on the move. They created, they erected a fenced militarized border, and that route basically stopped. So, the people on the move decided—I mean they didn’t have any other choice but to take a longer and more complex and dangerous, for that matter, route through Bosnia which kind of shows you with these arrows. That means— so why longer? Because once you enter Bosnia you’re still not in the EU. Once you enter Croatia. which is in the EU, it is still not in the Schengen Area, meaning they have to cross another border to Slovenia. That’s only when people get into this free border-free area and are free to move wherever they want in European Union and Schengen area, which means their journey suddenly became longer. With the length increases the cost. The costs are increasing and obviously Bosnia being and Croatia being former countries that went through war, that also means going through former frontlines, which are still littered with unexploded ordnances. And it also means crossing, traversing more rivers, more mountains and just makes the whole journey exponentially more difficult and dangerous. And when you combine that with the fact that Bosnia largely ignored, until like a year ago, ignored the situation with people on the move, that meant they were basically left to their own strengths and to the efforts of institutions like UN, UNHCR, IOM spearheading the attempts to help people on the ground and so on. So, I was working on a story for National Geographic and Pulitzer on this particular topic, and had really, I really felt it, for lack of better word, I really felt inadequate to tell that story. Yeah, sure, the images came out nicely, the client was happy and you know, everything went well, but I felt that’s not entirely satisfying, so to speak. Or I felt a little bit uncomfortable telling this particular story because also, we’re talking about people from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia, you name it, most other countries. So, basic communication was very difficult because you would need, within one visit to a temporary camp for anything, you would need five different translators. So, that means my communication with them was fairly limited. And then I noticed they all have phones because the phones, the smartphones, are a lifeline for people on the move. They use it to communicate with their families. They use it to communicate between cells with smugglers, traffickers, and they also use it as a navigational tool. So it’s really a lifeline. And then VII Academy, we had this idea of creating a space, as well, and probably, more importantly, create
a program of training for people on the move to tell their own story. And create a space, like this one, where they can tell their story. Just a small additional information. You can see here the numbers of people who had arrived to Bosnia. How many died in trying to get to Europe, via sea route, through the Mediterranean, and so on. So, you can see some of these numbers. And obviously, these numbers are not valid anymore, because they are changing literally as we speak. So they get to—we get to update them occasionally. Anyways. So, the idea was basically twofold. One, to create a safe space where we can have this website and obviously Instagram feed, which I urge everyone to check out. And to provide basic training in visual storytelling. People on the move are extremely handy with phones. So, it was a natural choice of tools. And over the past year, we had trained approximately 50 people, 60, in the basics of photography, and storytelling and video making and encouraged them to tell their own stories. Because I think of all the groups in the world that are under some form of threat and under represented, if you like, the most endangered, so to speak, group are people on the move. As David earlier said, everything we— most of the things we hear about people on the move is told either by journalists or by the NGO sector or humanitarian organizations, and eventually by the academics. We rarely would hear anything from them in their own words, or pictures. And so, it’s a very simple premise. But it only seems simple, because I think all of the movements that we witnessed over the, you know, from feminist movement, Me Too, to Black Lives Matter, I think part of the struggle is also about who controls the narrative and who gets to tell the story. Obviously, among many other more important issues that those movements were fighting against and fighting for. But I think that same rule applies, the same premise applies to the people on the move. I think what is desperately needed in contemporary media landscape, if you like, is to hear what they have to say. And that’s what we are trying to do with the Dispatches in Exile. We partnered with IOM, who generously supports the project. And we focused this year to work with people on the move who are in temporary reception centers, because of the logistics, obviously. And one of the major challenges, which I have to mention is that Bosnia is a transit country, which means that very few people decide to stay here and most of them see Bosnia as another step in their quest for a better life. So obviously, getting people to, I wouldn’t say commit, but to take part in the project is extremely challenging because they’re still in this, you know, they’re not in the place of this nation, but they’re still in transit, which is, like I mentioned earlier, very complex, very troubling and stressful situations. So anyway, I’m going to stop talking for a little bit and I’m going to show you some of the stuff that people produce, that people that we trained produced over the year. Let me just start sharing this short video. It’s very short.
[Gospel Singer From Pakistan video] Nouman Masseh: Bless the lord of my soul. Worship his holy name. Sing like never before. Oh my soul, I worship your holy name. My name if Nouman Maseeh and I’m from Pakistan. It’s been six years that I left Pakistan. I am married and I have a five and a half year old son. I miss my son a lot. He was only three months old when I left him and now he is 5 years old and I miss him so much. I want to go to Portugal. I want to do something for them and for the future of my son. The things I could not do in my life, I want him to do. The sun comes up. It’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing your song again. What terror may pass and what terror lies before me… When I arrive to Portugal I’m going to apply for asylum, because they do it fast. I wouldn’t repeat this journey, because it’s very difficult, but since I got this far I’m not gonna give up now. After spending this much time away, what could I do in pandemic and lockdown in Pakistan? I am very near to my desination and I’ll keep trying. It’s very difficult, but after all the difficulties is my destination. Let me be singing when the evening comes. Bless the lord of my soul. Of my soul. Worship his holy name. Sing like never before. Of my soul. I’ll worship your holy name. In the future I want to start a small business as a YouTuber. Because I’m a singer and I’m serving for the Glory of God. You’re rich in love and you’re slow to anger. Your name is great and your heart is kind. For all your goodness I will keep on singing.
31:53 Ziyah Gafic: And I’m going to show another one if you don’t mind. I think it’s better to show some of the work. This one is a bit longer so I’ll stop it at some point. It’s too long.
[Ayanle from Somalia video plays] Ayanle: My name is Ayanle. I’m 25 years old. I’m from Somalia. I came to Turkey. I crossed the border of Greece by boat, by plastic boat. I risked my life. Then I was waiting and asylum seeking in Greece for like one year and six months. Then they gave me a rejection two times. I left them last, I think it was February 27. I crossed the border from Macedonia to Serbia. I was staying in Macedonia. By walking. Nine days walking. When we were walking only three days, our food, everything, we finished it. We were walking, only drinking white water six days. So, we reached it, Serbia. Then staying in two camps in Serbia. Presevo, one near the Macedonian border, and the other one, Avinovos, 33 kilometers or 40 kilometers from Belgrade. I was living there 22 days. I left from Serbia and I crossed the river, again in a plastic boat. We risked our lives again. We reached Bosnia in 14 days. No, no. I didn’t feel any fear, but from Serbia to here was a little terrifying because we met some robbers. They robbed our phones, the money we had, me and two friends. They took our phones. They took our money, our backup money. So that was the worst thing that I’ve met during my journey. This is where I live in the camp. The corner room is my room. We live in here, from a lot of countries—Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria. So if you come closer, I live in this corner room. This is my room. So, the main thing that I get from this journey is experience interacting with different people, with different cultures, with different religion, with different language. That is the main thing I can say I got from this journey. Still I’m on the way of the journey. I’m still in the center of the journey. I haven’t ended my journey yet.
Ziyah Gafic: I’m going to stop here and hopefully we get the time to see other content that we have. So, just for reference, all the people that— both the people in the video and for the people you saw here, they’re all already outside of the country. Some of them made it through. Ayanle is in Austria waiting for his asylum. Two persons from Pakistan who made the video are also in Italy and Spain, and so on. So, it just tells you how dynamic the whole situation is. David, we have a question here. So, do you mind if I address it right away?
David Campbell: Yeah, absolutely.
Ziyah Gafic: So, Ann, you ask, have you made the tool available to other people working on storytelling with refugee communities. So, it’s as you can see, it’s a work in progress. While I talk, I’m gonna show some stuff as well. So, the idea is to replicate this or to use, or to replicate this project in other countries. It does involve a certain level of coordination, high level of coordination, and training, and so on, but the idea is that, and hopefully, the next step would be to replicate this project, perhaps in a country of a destination; not only a country of transit, like Bosnian, but let’s say I don’t know, France, or anywhere where you have a significant population arriving. So, the answer, the short answer is no, the long answer is this. And it’s totally open to anyone who would be interested in this. So, if anyone here is working on something similar, feel free to reach out, and I’m sure we can do something together. Sorry.
David Campbell: Ziyah, do you want to say a little more about kind of the mechanics of the training that was provided and how many people participated and what sort of training it was.
Ziyah Gafic: So, in Bosnia there are two types of temporary reception centers. One for single men and the other for families, women and unaccompanied minors. So, we had always several trainers working with women— we used to, because of the cultural differences, and because we don’t know who we are getting into the program, right, before we get there. We will have a female trainer or colleague working with them, and then we will have other people working with men and so on. So, it is very much a hands-on approach, meaning that from the get go, we should start and try to make as much content as possible because that’s also very, it’s much more engaging for them. And also, because we would get various kinds of people in the group. So, some of them had some knowledge, previous knowledge, some didn’t, you know, the language issues and so on. But everyone wants to make videos and photos. So, all we try to do is just, I mean, I can’t say just, but we try to channel that sort of need to tell your own story. And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. So it’s very much a hands-on— it’s not really a typical training, like we do in our other programs, but it’s very much hands-on. Does that make sense?
David Campbell: Yeah. And is it correct that they’re working on smartphones?
Ziyah Gafic: Yes, yeah. All the time. Most of the 90% of the time they would work on smartphones, you know, that’s what they have. What happens often is whenever they try to cross to Croatia—for some reason my internet is slow. I apologize. Oh, and we are not just— this is important— we are not working with unaccompanied minors. I just explained the way that the temporary reception centers are structured. No, we only work with adults. Yes. And obviously they all, before any session or before we do anything, before they start the training, we will have what’s called informed consent explained in detail by more people in the central school, cultural mediators who speak the languages be [inaudible] policy and so on to explain what it’s all about. So, no. We are not involving unaccompanied minors. If you look at the content, you will not see any of that. Or images of kids and stuff like that. We try to be very, very, very careful.
Ziyah Gafic: That make sense? Yes. To finish your question, David. Yes, it’s all— I’m trying to, I’m trying to speak at the same time as well. So yes, it’s all done on cell phones, because it’s a logical choice, because it’s the tool that everyone knows how to use. It also seems organic. But what happens is often, well, most of the time when people try to cross to Croatia, they get caught by the Croatian police and part of the practice exercised by the Croatian police is to basically strip them off all their possessions in order to discourage them of trying again. And that also involves taking their phones. So in cases like that, then we would, you know, provide a camera and stuff like that. But the idea is to stick with portable devices.
David Campbell: And who is the audience for this? Is this being circulated to media organizations? Or is this for the community itself in the reception centers?
Ziyah Gafic: Well, the idea is to create a medium, right. And so, that’s the idea. And we’re obviously working on it. In my mind, the audience is twofold. One, I think people on the move should be able to see what other people on the move have to say about them and their experience. So that’s one part of the audience. And the other, which I think is very important, is the— when I say local audience, in this case Bosnian audience, but also audience in any country that has a similar situation going on, because from what’s clear, from the research you showed us, there’s clearly a misrepresentation of people on the move. So, I think this also has a value of, let’s say, educational value for the audience, because it’s really what I like to see as an intimate, as much as it can be, story. And I think such story can only only be told by people who are on the move. So yeah.
David Campbell: I think that research shows that it’s almost a lack of representation in the sense that by showing predominantly people on the move in medium or large groups, you’re just not getting to see the people. So, it’s a misrepresentation of the overall issue. And it’s a lack of representation of the individuals themselves.
Ziyah Gafic: I don’t know if it’s lack of representation, or misrepresentation. I can’t make up my mind, I think it’s both, right? But I could live —as a person, I could live with a lack of representation, right? You know, it’s for whatever reason, right? But misrepresentation is, I would say, way more dangerous. And yeah, I don’t know which one is more dangerous, or more important.
David Campbell: And how— can you give us a sense of like, how many people have been through the training and kind of what’s been their reaction at the end of it?
Ziyah Gafic: I think we had about 60 people so far. And by the end of the year, we’re hoping to have 80-90. It’s horrible thing to say, but winter is the best part to do these trainings. Because during the winter, people on the move tend to reduce their movements because winter in Bosnia is harsh. So, that means they can, you know, we can focus and get access and talk and train more people. So, hopefully, I’m hoping about 80 to 90 by the end of the year. The reaction is, I mean, the reaction is obviously very positive because for all those who haven’t been refugees or haven’t walked for extended periods of time with people on the move, there is a tremendous amount of boredom. I know it’s a horrible thing to say, but you know, being in temporary reception camp centers, apologies, is extremely boring. And, you know, it’s— and with boredom comes depression and so on. So, anything that can, you know, that activates people is positive. And here it’s, Oh wow. I actually get to say something, right, with a picture or with words and so on. Obviously, most of the times it is pictures or videos because of the language issues and so on. So, as you can see, I’m just browsing through some of the pictures. We have all sorts of things, you know. People would send us stuff from when they are in the centers or when they are on the move. So, this is basically one of these, you know, this is the mountains, they have to cross. So, there’s a bit of everything. And then hope, also, once they arrive to a destination, like I think in this case, they also send us stuff from, you know, when they arrive. This is a Hazara family from Afghanistan, who finally managed to get to Germany. So, she made a collection of stuff from on the move, and when, you know, from when they were crossing the borders, and so on, and when they finally arrived to their destination. So, yes, the overall answer is absolutely positive, because it’s— you don’t have to have any training. You don’t have to have any beforehand knowledge or experience. But when you get a chance to speak, I think, intimately that’s always positive. It always has a positive effect on you. Because you know, whatever, you know, we don’t have still, a massive audience. But you know, just the opportunity to be heard. Everyone understands it. And I think it has a positive effect on everyone. And it does. I don’t know if that answers your question.
David Campbell: Yeah. And I think one of the remarkable things about particularly the imagery that you’re showing us now is we’re actually seeing the journey. I think that’s an interesting thing, thinking about the kind of the media coverage we normally get, because— and this relates to describing this as about people on the move, because our media coverage is normally static, it’s people in centers, or camps, or at borders, or coming off boats, or in harbors or something like that. Here, we’re actually seeing the whole process of movement, the whole journey itself, and that’s remarkably different.
Ziyah Gafic: Because it’s also, you know, for all those who are not into documentary, in journalism, business, it’s economics. It’s economics, on the end of journalists, because you have a certain amount of time you can dedicate to the story, you cover what you can, you know. Everyone knows that the budgets and the media are not what they used to be. So, it’s not that you’re going to get, you know, 10 week assignments to cover the story. And then you’ll be able to dive into and cross and so on. It’s very, it effects the final product, which is, I mean, product is horrible thing to say, but it is what it is. It affects it in a way that we have very, very limited image, no matter how hard we try, and it’s very, like you say, static, because it is what it is. You have a certain time, amount of time, that you can dedicate to a story. Can we just go back to the chat a little bit?
David Campbell: There’s a question from Judah about how many people do you think are still on the move through through Bosnia?
Ziyah Gafic: I don’t have that answer. I’m afraid I don’t think anyone has, because therer are people who stay in a temporary reception centers. And then there are people who stay off-site, so to speak in either in makeshift camps, for lack of a better word, or, you know, you know, different housing. So, because of that, it’s those numbers. I mean, it’s just like, it’s impossible. You can get the numbers in temporary reception centers, which also fluctuates incredibly, depending on the season, you know. So, probably now I would say during the winter we probably have, I don’t know, 10,000 people. In summer—It’s still may–it still may be that number, but it’s basically people passing through. So yeah, I don’t have that answer. And I don’t think anyone has.
David Campbell: But 1000s would be a reasonable…
Ziyah Gafic: For sure. Yeah. 1000s for sure. And it’s just that, you know, whatever I tell you, it won’t be accurate.
David Campbell: Yeah. I think Ann makes an interesting point about—and I agree that, you know, there’s a very intimate perspective to these photographs. And she’s saying it’s important to make connections and potentially, the images can then initiate change. I think what I would say is that imagery like this initiates the possibility for thinking about change and so on. I don’t think there’s a direct connection. I don’t want to suggest, even in the earlier things, that there’s a direct connection between this, you know, photograph A and political response B or something like that. Imagery is, along with other forms of media, kind of, it’s about establishing the conditions of possibility for certain things. And then it takes other political views or currents to make those things happen. But I definitely agree that if you have a different perspective like this, then you have the possibility, the possibility for a different response to it. And I also think, this is also why I think it’s about the second piece of research I cited which looked at, you know, prize-winning photojournalism. There are obviously fantastic images of the migrant crisis and people on the move. And it’s not a question of not taking those photographs, it’s a question of adding these stories and these visuals, I think, to the overall visual narrative to make it more complex and make it richer. So, I always think about these things in terms of, you know, the presence of imagery, what is present. And we have the ones of groups that are most present, therefore, what’s absent? The individuals are absent, their stories are absent. We want to add those things. It’s not about completely replacing one with the other. But it’s also then getting, you know, different possibilities for different responses. So…
Ziyah Gafic: Yeah. I don’t have much to add to that. But there is another question from Anastas. Is there any way for them to control the distribution of the visuals, the interest from other countries’ medias to share their stories, and if the people on the move have some kind of control, or at least knowledge about that. So, basically, what we say and do is that they have the right to withdraw in any given moment. So, it’s not that we own this stuff. We distribute it, we consult them, they see everything before it gets published. And if they don’t like it, we don’t. Does that make sense, Anastas?
David Campbell: And I think that you talked about, first of all, participants giving informed consent at the beginning.
Ziyah Gafic: Even within that informed consent, there is still you know, if someone changes his mind.
David Campbell: Yes. Which actually is a really important point about consent is that consent can be time limited. You can give consent at the beginning to participate, but as you say, then you can change your mind and you can withdraw that consent. Now, that’s very hard if someone’s covering, you know, an issue, and they can’t get to the people in the story who might change their mind later. But in this circumstance with this particular project, you have that opportunity.
Ziyah Gafic: Yes. I think that’s also— I mean, in a digital world, for example, if an Ayanle only now calls me and says, look, I don’t like this thing anymore, or I, you know, have a new life, you know, changes his mind, even if we take it off, chances are someone grabbed it. So, I think…
David Campbell: There’s that possibility.
Ziyah Gafic: But definitely, you know, whoever changes his mind or her mind, it’s theirs. Is there any way to show these stories in public spaces in Europe and elsewhere? Yes, there is. Do you have anything specific in mind?
David Campbell: Well, there, you know, there will be the possibility for public display public exhibition, and so on, if people wanted to use this material, then that would be available.
Ziyah Gafic: Yep. So, that too? Yeah.
David Campbell: I mean, I think that, you know, it would be fantastic if there was some editors out there who were looking at, for example, you know, coverage of what’s happening on the Poland-Belarus border. And then thinking about this, and putting these two things together. If not getting similar stories from the Poland-Belarus border, at least suggesting well, those large groups we’re seeing there, you know, are very similar to these individuals here. I mean, that would change the story, to add those things to it and goes back to the point that Ann made earlier is like, how can these things change the narrative of the conventional representations I was talking about at the beginning. I think it’s about adding these perspectives.
Ziyah Gafic: Exactly. I think, you know, to get a complete picture, you have one traditional way of reporting, when you know, it is what it is, and then you can have an additional point of view if you like, I think it’s…
David Campbell: Contest it, complicate it, challenge it and so on, and project it onto the European Parliament as Anastas suggests. Something like that.
Ziyah Gafic: Happy to. I’m not aware of Station Museum in Houston. Sorry. So. Yeah. I don’t know them. But I’m sure, why not? You know, if you can help us, feel free to get in touch. Happy to.
David Campbell: Yeah, Ziyah. How long is this? It’s partnered with IOM, the International Organization of Migration. How long is the project running for?
Ziyah Gafic: It’s close to a year. It’s like 10 months. And but obviously, it’s not gonna stop this way or the other.
David Campbell: So it’s an ongoing project? It will carry on for some time?
Ziyah Gafic: Absolutely, absolutely. Like next month we have— there is a new temporary reception center being opened. And we’re going to do three or four groups of people because we realize that it’s better to work in smaller groups, which is not rocket science. So, we’re going to work with smaller groups.
David Campbell: So we’ve got people actively thinking about how to use this material, which would be fantastic.
Ziyah Gafic: Absolutely. Feel, please get in touch. We’ll be happy to do something.
David Campbell: Yeah. Well, there’s still time if anyone wants to drop a question into the chat or the q&a. That’s fine. We’ve got we’ve got a few more minutes if you want to do that.
David Campbell: So, Ziyah, do you think, looking at the way you started the project and where it’s at now…
Ziyah Gafic: Sorry, sorry. Can you repeat? I was reading the questions.
David Campbell: Yeah, sure. I was gonna ask, do you think that when you started the project, you probably had certain expectations about what you would achieve and what the purpose was and what you would consider success and so on. What were those things that you are going to, how were you going to judge success? And do you think that you’ve met those? Or do you think there are still things to do differently or achieve in order to count as successful?
Ziyah Gafic: Well, the biggest challenge and the biggest impact on what we do is the fact that Bosnia is a transit country. I mentioned that briefly. And that’s very, I mean, that makes the whole process exponentially more difficult. Because you know, people are in transit, they are on the move. Half of their life, or let’s say, half of their brain, their their mental strength is back home, that they left or fled, and half is focused on their final destination. So, that’s really like, it really makes you, it puts you in a very special state of mind, which I am ashamed that I didn’t notice it. That’s also an amazing thing that I learned. I didn’t notice that being practitioner, I didn’t notice that, you know, because I was focused on my own stuff. But now, with this interaction, I’m like, wow, this is such a heavy burden. These people are glued on their phones trying to navigate the next stage of their journey and that’s really, that’s really a huge factor. And it has a big impact on what we do. Having said that, I’m still, I think we’re doing good stuff. I think it’s a good project. I think the content is there. And I just think we need more of it. And in different countries, because in different countries, environment changes, the circumstance changes, the landscape changes. And I think that’s also an information that is needed in this arc of representing the people on the move. Does that make sense?
David Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. There was a question from Ann about how have you managed with participants who might have a low level of literacy? I mean, what was the case that participants have a low level of literacy?
Ziyah Gafic: I didn’t see—oh, okay. Have you managed to have participants with a low level…? Yes, we did. And, which is why we focused on—I assume you are talking literacy in general, or visual literacy? What was the, if you can, anyway, I think I get the gist of the question. In general, yes, we did. But, which is why we focused on imagery, because images are so close to anyone, regardless of their background, and so on. Sure, someone is more sophisticated or more educated or less, but the visual, you know, the visual aspect makes, that visual communication is almost universal. So it’s kind of, that’s why we focused on that because there, everyone can express themselves in a certain, in whatever way.
David Campbell: Yeah. So, Jeff, who I know well, good to see you, Jeff, works for Americas, an organization in the US, with Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, wants to talk to you about how to do this and empower people that they serve. Ziyah, I don’t know if you want to put an email address up…
Ziyah Gafic: Oh, sure.
David Campbell: …to help people to get in touch with you directly for those.
Ziyah Gafic: I’d be happy to. I do think, Jeff, that America would be an amazing location for— sorry, let me just write email before I say this thing— I think it would be an amazing location because it’s a destination country, because it has such a huge influx of people and of different backgrounds from different countries. So, yeah, I mean, I think it would be perfect.
David Campbell: Yeah. Yeah. So, if anyone wants to talk about the training, how to use this material, email Ziyah at those addresses. If you want to get the research…
Ziyah Gafic: Sorry, I apologize.
David Campbell: Someone’s already calling you. If you want to get the research, email me at this address the VII Insider address, because there aren’t links to the articles directly because you have to go through paywalls. But I can send you PDFs of the articles directly if you send me an email at that VII Insider address. Very happy to do that. And I think we’re coming to the end of our time. Last chance for anyone to drop in a question. Ziyah do want to…? Well, the emails are in the chat and they are right above your message.
Ziyah Gafic: I’m going to copy the emails again, but there are…
David Campbell: I assume that people can see the chat as it goes along. I don’t know why. It says…
Ziyah Gafic: Here it is. You see that now?
David Campbell: That’s because I was set to host and panelists, not everyone. My apologies. There you go. There’s a VII Insider address to everyone. It’s the same address that’s on the website. So, if you want the research do that. Ziyah to everyone. Yeah.
Ziyah Gafic: Yeah. Now, now you can see it. Okay. Got it.
David Campbell: We have to press all these buttons while having a discussion. It gets very complex after a while. But this has been a great discussion.
Ziyah Gafic: Thank you very much.
David Campbell: Yeah, thank you, everyone, for coming. I think it’s been really—this is something we want to do is try and incorporate setting out the context of issues, discussing conventional representations, talk about alternatives with practitioners and then programs like this. So, if you’d like that combination, let us know we can do more events like this. And we look forward to hearing from you now that you’ve got those email addresses.
Ziyah Gafic: Yes. I’m very excited about the level of interest. It’s really, I mean, it’s really encouraging. Thank you very much, and I hope you feel—really feel free to reach out, even for just a chit chat. Okay, there’s look, we can go on forever. Thank you very much, David, for this and thank you, everyone, for staying with us.
David Campbell: Yep. We’ll have this up online within about a week or so. And we look forward to doing some more events like this. Let us know if you’ve got particular topics you’d like us to look at. And we look forward to seeing you at the next event.
Ziyah Gafic: Take care everyone.
David Campbell: Thanks, bye bye.