Back home, Aosama was a meteorologist; Adil was a first-year law student. They had large families and many friends. Here in Paris, their lives are on standby. Thanks to the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and their ‘Welcome’ programme, they are hosted by families and religious communities. “Before I entered the programme, I had lost every hope,” Adil said.
I shot these photographs during the ‘Documentary Photography’ workshop with Patrick Zachmann in Paris. To me, they just hold the promise of a larger and “more achieved” – to use Patrick Zachmann’s wording – project. I had very limited time with Adil and Aosama, without much happening at the time and without the opportunity to really build a connection with them. I was also myself grappling with many thoughts in my head, trying to challenge my own ideas and to push myself in new directions. Nevertheless, I was determined to keep challenging the misconceptions and prejudices we have about refugees, through the lens of personal stories.
This year, I have had the chance to document stories of refugee students in Kenya, Jordan and Rwanda for the UN Refugee Agency. In total, I have interviewed and photographed over sixty students. Besides being impressed by their determination and resilience, I have been constantly struck by how much we share rather than how much sets up apart.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Adil, Aosama, JRS, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit Fathers, the Jesuit community on rue Blomet (XVth), as well as Patrick Zachmann for their support.
Antoine is a documentary photographer based out of Geneva, Switzerland. He is commissioned mostly by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to depict human stories. He always intends to do so with curiosity, compassion and integrity.