The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University will host a gallery talk Saturday, June 6, by photojournalist Brendan Bannon, who will discuss his new exhibition “Do You See What I See?”
The program begins at 2:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
The photographs in the exhibition were taken by Syrian teens who are refugees because of the civil war in their country. The resulting exhibition is a collection of compelling photographs that are both heart-wrenching and strangely uplifting: They capture the spirit of the person behind the camera, not asking for sympathy but making the viewer aware of their circumstances.
“Do You See What I See?” shows the work of eight young people who are telling the stories of their everyday lives, sharing moments of reprieve through creativity from the challenges of exile.
Bannon, of Buffalo, worked with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to spend six weeks in the refugee camps of Zaatari in Jordan and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, teaching photography to teenage refugees.
The idea was straightforward: Create an incredible experience for a group of kids with cameras and photography. The results are amazing.
“The work shows kids facing challenges that could easily be overwhelming and yet there is, among the trauma that they experienced, resilience, optimism and decency that is surprising to people who only expect to see tragedy,” Bannon said.
The Syrian conflict is now in its fifth year with close to 4 million Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries, particularly Jordan and Lebanon.
So often, Bannon said, refugees’ stories are told by others — journalists, filmmakers, photographers — if they are told at all. The project’s goal was to encourage these children to express themselves in pictures and writing and then to share the work, raising their voices throughout the world.
The assignments given to the children were fairly general and gave opportunities for the photographers to choose what to share of their lives. The responses in pictures and prose, however, were overwhelmingly complex.
“These children have to live through a tragedy of towering proportions every day. They only ask that we stand by and look at what they have endured. If they have the courage to live it, we should have the courage to see it,” Bannon said.
The exhibition is on view in the Paul and Toni Branch Gallery, which is located on the first floor of the Quick Center for the Arts. The gallery talk is part of St. Bonaventure’s Alumni Reunion Weekend activities.
(St. Bonaventure journalism and mass communication student Liam Bunny contributed to this article.)
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