This week Lalai Manjik, a writer for The Armenian Weekly, spoke to grantee Diana Markosian about her recent project photographing refugee children learning to swim in Germany.
As an Armenian-American whose mother risked her life to make sure that she and her daughter could live in America, Markosian has a personal understanding of the effects migration has on children.
The children she is photographing came to Europe over the treacherous Mediterranean route from the Middle East to Greece. They have settled in Germany and have begun to adjust to their new lives, but their perilous journeys on overloaded rubber boats across rough seas have left them afraid of water. Now, they are learning to swim so that they can leave that fear behind them.
Markosian got the idea for this project while she was working on her Pulitzer Center project "A Postcard Home" in which she documented the story of a 14-year-old refugee boy named Milad. "I was given a grant from the Pulitzer Center to document a refugee family's first year in Germany," she explained. "During my time with the family, I learned that the boy who I had been photographing had a fear of water. This led me to do further research on this topic in order to try to understand whether this was a common experience for other refugees. What I found was a program in Wolfsburg, Germany, which is dedicated to providing classes for children who had just arrived as refugees."
People have become desensitized to the stream of images of mass human suffering that have come from the refugee crisis, and Markosian is hoping that these humanizing and sensitive images will make viewers see her subjects as individuals. To her, however, the process of connecting with these children by making them a part of the creative process and including their personal narratives is more important than the final images.