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A teen life in Za’atari: phone images by Syrian refugee children

If you looked at the phone of any teenager around the world, you’d probably find the same photos of friends and family, with maybe a few snaps of school or favourite clothes. By the end of your scroll you’d probably have a sense of that person’s life, their story, from their perspective.

So imagine if you looked at the phone of a teenage Syrian refugee. Would their life look that different?

Save the Children has released a unique collection of images taken by a group of ten girls and boys living in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

These young Syrian refugees worked with world-class Magnum photographer Michael Christopher Brown, who frequently takes stunning pictures using an iPhone. He guided them in their efforts to do the same.


The pictures form a fresh, colourful and personal portrait of life in Za’atari. But in addition to offering us a window into life inside the camp, they show us that all teenagers have things in common, even though they might live drastically different lives.

In August, along with our photo editor Lynn Chambers and members of our fantastic team in Jordan, I joined Michael on his visit to Za’atari and worked with his photography class – aged 14 to 18 – as he equipped them with the tools to tell their own stories in their own voice.

I saw firsthand how Save the Children’s two multi-activity centres in the camp, which cover everything from fitness training to English classes, have become a second home to these teenagers, and to thousands like them. For these children whose lives have been so disrupted by war, the centres are a haven.

Learning new skills has a huge impact on these children’s confidence and self-esteem. Photography also provides a way to communicate and that precious gift which years of living in uncertain and difficult conditions can erode: hope for the future.

“This week was a very, very, very, amazing experience,” said 15-year-old Samar* who took part in the project. “Michael gave us so many useful tips and taught us so many great things.

“For me, ever since I was little my dream was to be a photographer and a very famous photojournalist who gets to go around the world and visit different places.

“Sometimes, when I hold the camera up to take a picture of someone, I see things through the lens that can’t be seen in the naked eye – especially people’s emotions.”

Inside Za’atari launches on Tumblr today.  Here you can see more of the pictures that really tell the story of the project and of the teenagers who took part. ​


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