Photo exhibition brings reality of Syria crisis home for Australians

Campaigns and Advocacy, Emergencies, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 15 Mar 2016

The personal stories of the mothers, fathers and children behind the incomprehensible number of deaths and displacement from the Syria crisis will bring the true impact of the conflict home for Australians today, with the launch of a hard-hitting online photography exhibition.

The exhibition “Syria: The Faces behind 5 Years of Crisis” will be launched by Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Craig Laundy, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, and Greens Leader Richard Di Natale at Parliament House in Canberra today, on the 5th anniversary of the crisis.

The images, taken by photojournalists working for Amnesty International, Australian Red Cross, CARE, Caritas, Oxfam, Save the Children, Baptist World Aid Australia, UNICEF Australia and World Vision, tell the story of the devastating impact this crisis is having, and how humanitarian aid is helping those affected.

The photos depict the stark realities of life for desperately hungry people receiving aid in besieged Syrian towns and Syrian refugees on the move in bitterly cold Europe.  But they also show moments of hope, like an image of a young boy flying a kite in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, who wears the same smile that any young child would wear when their kite lifts on a breeze.

Sam Tarling, one of the photographers whose work was chosen for inclusion in the exhibition, said the images and the stories they told were a sobering reminder to the public that the statistics they heard on news bulletins represented real people.

“In the five years since the humanitarian crisis in Syria began more than 250,000 people have been killed, and 4.8 million people have fled the country,” Mr Tarling said.

“But hearing that over 250,000 have been killed in a war can seem almost meaningless. Like most people, I have no idea what 250,000 people looks like, what that represents. If people can get even a glimpse of what they are going through, then they start to care about what happens to them.”

Mr Tarling described the circumstances behind one of his images in the exhibition, which depicts a mother hugging her child close during an attack.

“A fighter jet had recently bombed the house next door to this lady’s home in Aleppo. I found her after taking shelter myself from the same plane, which had circled round and opened fire on me and a colleague whilst we stood in the street,” Mr Tarling told The Telegraph when the photograph was first published.

“This woman was trying to calm down her daughter but eventually broke down in hysterics. It might seem weird to photograph someone at such a personal moment, but when things are the most crazy it’s actually the easiest to take the picture, there is an understanding.

“I often wonder what became of her and keep an eye out for her or her child when I’m visiting refugee camps.”

Another of the exhibition’s inclusions, Syrian-Italian photographer Ibrahim Malla, who has been volunteering with an aid organisation for 16 years, said he has lost friends and colleagues in the conflict.

His image captures a young man, around 20 years of age loading an emergency vehicle while the siege of the city of Homs was at its worst in 2012. The sky above is dark with smoke clouds from nearby explosions.

“If you look at the picture it really shows how dangerous our work is. People are there working in the middle of bombing and snipers. Many of them are very young,” Mr Malla said.

The collection will bring the realities of life in war zones and refugee camps, and on the long and life-threatening road to safety, into the homes of Australians, with the exhibition to be hosted online at

The link to the exhibition will go live from 00:01 Tuesday 15 March. It would be greatly appreciated if you could publish this link along with any stories or picture galleries hosted on your platforms, so that your audience can view the full collection.

Images from the exhibition with captions can be downloaded here:

For interviews with photographers or spokespeople from the aid and advocacy organisations contributing to the exhibition contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428367318, or