Armidale local and freelance photographer Simon Scott partnered with Settlement Services International (SSI) to use his skills to foster the talent of aspiring photographer and Ezidi refugee Salwan Qasm Muhi.
Aspiring photographer and Ezidi refugee Salwan Qasm Muhi (L) with Armidale local and freelance photographer Simon Scott (R).
Mr Scott has lived in Armidale for 18 years with a successful career as a photographer, producing images for politicians, universities and organisations including the local youth support hub, Backtrack.
He has also travelled to Africa, teaching photography at an educational institution in Tanzania and documenting life stories for a string of humanitarian organisations and NGOs.
On learning of Armidale’s selection as a major refugee resettlement location, Mr Scott was eager to channel his skills and document the lives of his new neighbours or, better yet, teach them how to document and tell the story of their own lives.
Mr Scott contacted SSI and was connected to Mr Muhi, a young refugee with a desire to hone his skills and pursue a career as a photographer.
After a phone call facilitated by an interpreter, the duo met face-to-face and wandered the streets of Armidale, taking photos and discussing their image compositions.
Despite the language barriers, Mr Scott and Mr Muhi formed a strong artistic bond, with Mr Scott describing Mr Muhi as someone with a warm and positive attitude — and a sharp dresser.
“He just wanted to try something new and be positive,” said Mr Scott.
Mr Scott said that there also were benefits to their meetings outside of photography, as he hoped to assist Mr Muhi to develop his English.
“He wanted to know the English words for things like family members, aunts and uncles, and, if we can’t explain a word, we use mobiles and sometimes I ask him the translation for words.”
Mr Scott plans to continue mentoring Mr Muhi and hopes to support the young refugee in finding his place within the Armidale community and, ultimately, in developing a body of work that would form his own photography exhibition.
Mr Scott is a strong believer that photography provides people with a platform to connect with others who otherwise would not have the chance to form a friendship, and that it makes communities a more welcoming place.
He said, fortunately, his job allowed him to spend time volunteering — a true passion point for him.
“Helping others allows me to give back to my core values, and it reminds me of how fortunate we are.”