Winter 2000 (8.4)
Self Portrait Photo Exhibition
Tell Their Own Story
A recent photo exhibition was held in Baku on December 8-16,
2000, entitled "Self Portraits: Uprooted People in Azerbaijan".
The event was organized by the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) and sponsored by ENI/AGIP Azerbaijan.
President Aliyev officially opened the exhibition to commemorate
the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the UNHCR. The exhibit
was created under the guidance of UNHCR's Representative Didier
Laye and press officer Vugar Abdusalimov. It included 88 photos
depicting refugees in the context of everyday life. All the refugees
who were chosen as photographers were invited from the camps
to come to the capital during the exhibition. Some came with
their parents, brothers and sisters.
Photo: From the Photo Exhibition "Self
Portraits-Uprooted People of Azerbaijan" organized by UNHCR
and sponsored by Agip Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan currently has the world's largest ratio of refugees
per capita - nearly 1 million individuals out of a population
of 8 million have been displaced from their homes because of
the war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The UNHCR wanted to give these people a chance to tell their
stories themselves. This past summer, UNHCR distributed simple
cameras to refugees living in camps, railway cars, abandoned
public buildings, and even in primitive underground dugouts where
shepherds previously only sheltered during the few winter months
so they could graze their sheep at lower elevations.
UNHCR is concerned that as time passes, the plight of the refugees
is gradually fading from people's memories even though there
are still hundreds of thousands who need assistance as they wait
for a peace settlement so they can return to their native lands
which presently are still militarily occupied.
Abdusalimov observed: "You see the misery that is in the
camps but the beauty of the exhibit is that one can see a glimmer
of hope in so many of the photographs. You see people with dignity
who just happen to be living in appalling conditions but they
still keep their hope alive."
Sponsorship for the entire photo project was assumed by ENI/AGIP
Azerbaijan, an Italian oil company working in Azerbaijan that
last year allocated $2.25 million for refugee shelters [See story
in this issue]. ENI/AGIP carried out the preparations for the
exhibition in Italy including enlarging, printing, and framing
the photos, as well as producing the accompanying catalog.
behind Refugee Self Portraits originated with the staff of Azerbaijan
International back in 1993 when they realized that refugees could
tell their own story better than any outsider could. AI distributed
disposable cameras among the refugees in late 1993 and again
in 1996 and published the results in the Spring
(AI 2.1) and Spring
5.1) issues. SEARCH at AZER.com.
To request information about UNHCR's traveling photo exhibition
or about the availability of catalogs, contact Vugar Abdusalimov
(8.4) Winter 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.
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AI 8.4 (Winter 2000)
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