What is life really like inside the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon? Young refugees have been trying to answer that through a camera lens, as part of a project supported by Canon Europe and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The initiative from ICRC and Canon is designed to give participants a voice and to learn skills that can generate an income.

“Seeing the group grow and develop, both in a personal and a technical sense, has been incredible, and we hope to see it continue. Several of the participants are planning to return as paid volunteers for future projects, and we’re currently looking to support them in starting businesses and finding full-time jobs,” said Nayla El Eid from the ICRC.

Professional photographer Patrick Baz has been working with the five young creatives involved in the latest round of training. He said: “The young people have a message to pass to the world to show what’s going on here, what their life and this refugee camp is really about, and that violence is not always an answer,” said Patrick Baz. “Throughout my career, I’ve helped local photographers tell their own stories because in this industry, there is a tendency to tell others’ stories.”

The initiative is a partnership of between Canon’s Young People Programme, and the ICRC’s Ideas Box, which ‘provides recreational education activities to refugees’. 

The Visa pour l’Image photo festival in Perpignan, France, on from 31 August to 15 September, will showcase the work. Read the bios of the five below for more on the individuals behind the camera:

Fatima

Fatima is 19 years old and has spent her entire life inside Ein El-Hilweh. She took part in the first stage of the project in 2018, and returned for the second session in 2019. She is currently applying to study an Interior Design degree and outside her studies, she enjoys drawing, but has never had the opportunity to learn more. Her photos focus on the building structure of the camp, highlighting how the walls keep out the sun and the dangers of its poor construction.

Hala

Nineteen-year-old Hala is a refugee who lives outside Ein El-Hilweh, but regularly visits her family and friends inside the camp. Inspired by the friendships she’s made, she took a job as a football coach within the camp before also taking the opportunity to join the photography project. Her photography explores life for women in the camp, focusing in particular on the General Union of Palestinian Women and Children, which puts on programmes for women within Ein El-Hilweh.

Yehya

Yehya is 26 and was born inside Ein El-Hilweh. He holds a degree in Civil Architecture which he received after securing a scholarship to study abroad in Cyprus. However, he struggles to find work as his status as a refugee prevents him from joining the Lebanese Order of Architects. Through his photography, Yehya explores how life of refugees is misrepresented in traditional media, often to the detriment of those within the camp trying to build a better life through education.

Daniel

Daniel is 22 years old and lives in Sidon, just outside Ein El-Hilweh, but knows many living inside the camp. He’s currently studying Business Management at the Lebanese International University and teaches photography within the camp in his spare time. The ICRC/Canon project has helped him to develop his own skills for teaching others. In his own photography, he works to document older people within camp who are often forgotten about, emphasizing it’s important to remember their stories too.

Ahmed

Twenty-one-year old Ahmed feels like a stranger whenever he goes outside of Ein El-Hilweh. Frustrated by the lack of job opportunities and poor pay for those that do exist, the photography project has allowed him to highlight the boredom faced by many living within the camp.