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09 Oct 2015


Photography workshop to help refugees and asylum seekers tell their stories

Participants in the photography workshop run by CuriousWorks and SSI.

SSI Arts & Culture Coordinator Carolina Triana said last year’s storytelling and filmmaking workshop with CuriousWorks was such a success that SSI decided to work with them again on a similar project.

“We chose to focus on photography this time because it is more easily accessible to everyone and a number of  participants had expressed an interest in photography before ,” Ms Triana said.

The workshop is usually held at Auburn Centre for Community but a session in early October was organised as an excursion to the Royal Botanic Gardens, where participants were encouraged to explore the park and find images to use in their final projects.

Through CuriousWorks’ specific approach to arts and media, the facilitators aim to empower communities to use digital media to tell their own stories in their own words.

“We want people to find a variety of images and textures that they can identify with, something they feel that represents who they are,” said Mr. Gonzalez, a facilitator at CuriousWorks. “We want them to capture those images with their cameras and take them back to the studio where they will work to create a collage.”

The participants range from those who have had no experience using a camera before, to experts like Soheil Errehadolhagh who shocked the workshop facilitators with his skills.

“For over 20 years, I used to run my own photography business in my home country,” the Iranian-born photographer said. “The pressure of the government on my family due to our religion was too big, so we had to go and leave all that behind.

 “I have only been in Australia for six months, so I am still learning the language and the way of doing things here. However, in the future I would like to open my own photography business like the one I had in Iran.”

Personal interest and professional purposes are the most common reasons sited by the participants for enrolling in this workshop.

“Before coming to Australia, I was a cameraman for 12 years at a television channel,” Azhar, from Iraq, said. “I want to find a job in media here, so I have enrolled in this workshop to learn more about photography and expand my job opportunities.”

This excursion was organised as a part of a six-week photography workshop. Some of the works will be displayed in a showcase and celebration event on November 3, at Casula Powerhouse Centre. 

This initiative is part of SSI’s Arts and Culture Program, which supports people who are seeking asylum, and who are from refugee backgrounds, to develop their creative skills.

The positive role of arts and cultural activities play in the initial phases of refugee and asylum seeker settlement is well recognised. Research shows that creative expression can help build confidence and develop core skills, including in language, among newly arrived migrants.NSW research also supports the positive impact that refugee artists have on Australia and the State’s cultural life.

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