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Capturing migrant stories through a lens
Culture & Life

Capturing migrant stories through a lens

2 min. 23.10.2015 From our online archive
When Luxembourg-based photographer Emily Pinna turned 41, she decided to celebrate her birthday a little differently: she traveled to the Greek island of Lesvos, determined to capture the stories of refugees through photography.

(NG) When Luxembourg-based photographer Emily Pinna turned 41, she decided to celebrate her birthday a little differently: she traveled to the Greek island of Lesvos, determined to capture the stories of refugees through photography (see gallery below).

"I was tired of what I was seeing on the news and realised I had so much to be thankful for," she said. "I was pulled by the idea of seeing what was happening there with my own eyes and to help others through visual storytelling."

From the minute she stepped foot on Lesvos, she was liaising with volunteers, offering to transfer supplies between makeshift camps. "The sight was unbelievable," she said. "At one point, I found myself putting my camera aside to help pull people out of boats. It was impossible to stand there and not do anything."

Emily, who was born in Germany but has lived in Africa, Italy and the US, moved to Luxembourg in 2008. She has worked in the past for the United Nations, the World Bank and non-profit organisations, but in 2013 she decided to formally combine her two passions--aesthetics and social change--by getting her MA in Social Design from the Maryland Institute of Art (MICA).

Empowerment through social design

Social design is an emerging concept which places value on the designer's role in bringing about social change. For her thesis, Emily designed a curriculum called 'Empower Empathy', aimed at tackling bullying, for a group of refugee children from Eritrea, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Students were encouraged to express bullying through artwork which, according to Emily, empowers them and creates dialogue. "Baltimore's refugee children are subject to a high level of bullying because they are trying to navigate a new culture, environment and language," she said. "It's hard to see this, especially knowing many of them came from extreme situations in the countries they left."

Whatever the project, "it is important to create a connection with the audience. [My work] isn't just about empathy and emotion, there also tends to be a very personal story behind it."

Emily now divides her time between Luxembourg and the US. She has kept a blog of her photos and journey on her website at www.emilypinnaphotography.com

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