Fleeing Death Project Statement
Thousands of immigrants, mainly Syrians, are coming to the refugee camp in Idomeni on the Greek-Macedonian border. It is occupied by people from different social strata. They are all found there fleeing the war, death and starvation. They continue their journey through Macedonia to the north and west of Europe. Not everyone manages to pass the verification of the documents, which leads to the separation of families. The refugees are living in difficult conditions and sleeping in overcrowded and soaked tents. They are frozen and have limited access to sanitation. The refugees are exhausted, tired and uncertain about their situation.
Cary Benbow (CB): Can you please explain how you started your Fleeing Death project?
Szymon Barylski (SB): I was watching the news and hearing about the refugees crisis, I felt that it could affect all of us! As in the case of any of my projects, I approached this one in a very personal and individual manner. I think that all my projects have one common denominator – in almost all of my photographic reports, I document the poorest and the most unjust face of the world.
CB: What do you feel are the obligations of a photographer covering human rights issues? Do you feel an obligation to help the people in your photos?
SB: Yes, I have an obligation to the people in the photos – otherwise I would never find myself here. All of us could find ourselves in the situations of people in my photos. Being a reporter involves trying to adapt to whatever we get and being able to learn from these experiences as much as we can. I’d like to see my photographs helping raise individual and collective consciousness of social, political and economic needs, and urge people to act, to be a part of creating positive changes. I think that when you do something as honest as you can, it influences people.
I hope my photos will increase individual and collective awareness about the social, political and economic need and urge people to act, and be part of positive changes.
CB: Has it been difficult to start and stop working on projects that involve people in need?
SB: It is especially hard for me at the beginning because I involve in these situations on purpose. I talk to people affected by problems, I mix with them. Yet, at the time when I start to take photos, I try to put emotions aside.
CB: How do you decide to take on new projects? Do you work on assignment for news agencies, or are you solely independent?
SB: Sometimes it is a impulse. But usually I choose topics that, I believe, are worth showing at the moment. I don’t work for any agency, I am just independent.
CB: What was your start into photography?
SB: I bought my first camera to have souvenirs from my travels in the form of photos. Soon I realized that a camera had become an integral part of me. I began with street photography, but I was always the most interested in listening to the stories of people. I have realized that it is possible to express oneself by means of photography, to show emotion and tell a story; for this reason I am engrossed in documentary photography and photojournalism.
CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
SB: I believe that it’s impossible to take good photos of something that one does not know well. Therefore, for each project I prepare individually, and objectively. Initially I do a thorough research of the press and the Internet. Then, I look for inspiration in the photos of other photographers and conversations. The relationship with the people in the photos is very important. You have to get know the photographed people and approach them with respect. When we take care of this relationship in a proper way, they are capable of opening up in front of us, and with their sincerity and trust we will have a better story. My own narration, which is revealed in my photography, is very personal and universal at the same time.
The more honestly and personally I work, the better. The idea is to go deeply into oneself, think about the issues that one really wants to tell.
CB: What work are you currently working on? Any new projects?
SB: I have just returned from Nepal, where I my new project was created. I hope I will finish it by the end of the year.
CB: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start projects like yours?
SB: They should have the ability to search and record situations that other people don’t notice; and to understand culture differences. Besides this – it is hard work and discipline that matters.
Szymon Barylski is a Polish photographer based in Ireland, Galway. He has photographed the Syrian refugee crisis in his project, Fleeing Death, and has also photographed the inhabitants of Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, and its Belen district where many people live in economic strife.
To see more of his work, and view his projects, visit his website: www.szymonbarylski.com
Also published on Medium.