Medium.com - 13-Year-Old Girl Takes Stunning Portraits of Refugees Around the World
Updated: Jul 18, 2019
December 25, 2018
13-year-old Celeste Huang has been raising awareness of this humanitarian crisis by traveling to refugee camps with her parents and showing the people living in the camps as individuals, not merely their label as “refugee.”
The United Nations calls the Global Refugee Crisis “the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.” Over 68.5 million children, women and men have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution. That equates to 1 person fleeing their home every two seconds.
Every. Two. Seconds.
“Just because a person is living in a bad situation it doesn’t mean they are a bad person,” Celeste said. “I think sometimes people forget that. So we bring a simple backdrop to remove the refugee camp and show people simply as individuals.”
Taking portraits of hundreds of camp residents at a time requires a team effort and is a family affair. Her parents — documentary photographers Theresa Menders and Daniel Farber Huang — and siblings Quincy, Alexander and Christian, have documented conditions in refugee camps in Athens and Chios, Greece and Tijuana, Mexico.
“We always try to show people with courage, beauty, dignity and grace,” father Daniel Farber Huang said. “Celeste has been the principal photographer for the formal portraits here. Her brothers and sister work with the individuals and high-volume printing process on site in the camps.”
“Most refugees lost their treasured family photos when they fled their homelands,” mother Theresa Menders said. “A physical photo of family or friends to hold in your hands can be a great comfort in times of need and we wanted to give photos back to individuals who have lost so much.”
The team brings portable printers to the camps to make and distribute proper portraits for the residents. Many detainees give the team their permission to share their images to put a face to the refugee crisis.
In Mexico in December 2018, Celeste and her family documented the Migrant Caravan as people were fleeing Honduras and other countries seeking safety.
The portrait project, called “The Power of Faces: Looking at the Global Refugee Crisis,” raises awareness through articles, TEDx Talks, presentations and exhibits. Amnesty International exhibited their work at annual conferences in Boston and Philadelphia.
“Regardless of her age, Celeste is able to build quick rapport with the hundreds of people we might be photographing any given day,” Daniel said. “She puts people at ease and it’s reflected in the portraits we’re able to give back.”
“First and foremost, I hope people will remember that these are human beings who are seeking safety,” Celeste said. “I realize the world is a complicated place, and politics can be messy, but the more we remember to show kindness to others in need the better the world can be.”
Images from “The Power of Faces: Looking at the Global Refugee Crisis” can be viewed at www.huangmenders.com