Sara’s story was a peculiar one for me. It started with a hugely long and argeous journey to get into a volatile refugee camp, it was a mess, scattered tents everywhere, men marching around brandishing sticks with nails poking out, and in the midst of it all a small inconspicuous tent harbouring the one lady we called Sara (not her real name for safety reasons). We were quickly ushered inside, away from the prying eyes in the camp. Her whole family was in there, including a grandfather who smoked roll up cigarettes constantly, our photographer (and dear friend) Alex joined him, and it took everything in me not to do so, within seconds it was a special encounter, sitting there with this family we just met discussing truly intimate and brutal details about their lives. The younger sister was bitterly angry at the regime, as is understandable considering the horrors we would hear about later on.
We went through the usual routine, trying to make the environment as quiet as possible, evening out the light with carefully placed reflectors and making do with gaffa and whatever material was lying around. We sat her in the middle of the room, on the beautiful carpet they had salvaged from somewhere. Our interpreter Ralph began talking to her, every few minutes he would give us a brief outline of what had been said, such as ‘her father was killed’ or ‘there was regular bombing’ and we would guide the questioning from there. Georgina and Kayla from World Vision would guide the questioning and before we knew if our time was up. During the interview I could see and feel her pain echoing down the lens to me, I didn't know exactly what she was saying but something about how she delivered it all was already making this brutal.
We went outside, to capture a few quick shots of B roll, then a pick up truck rolled in with blacked out windows and a selection of AK47’s sitting in the trunk…It was time to go.
Within two hours we had arrived, captured the story and then packed up and left. That evening we sat down and had Ralph translate every word of it, and we all sat there with mouths agape, lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes as we heard about how a families life had been brutally destroyed, how innocent died in the most savage ways, and how potential and hope had died in flames a gunfire back in Syria.
It was then that her story was seared into my mind. I have never forgotten her face, I can still hear her voice and in many ways I hope I always will, hers is the story which hundreds of thousands of other children in Syria share, each unique in their brutality and despair. It was a privilege to capture her story, and I shall never forget her.
Head over to www.worldvision.org.uk to see how you can get involved in helping refugees around the globe.