The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation For Documentary Photography & Film
2016 Photography Co-Laureate – Enri Canaj
Project: The Wind Cries War
Region/Impact: Human flight and refugee resettlement in germany and greece
Fed by the Arab Spring protests of 2011, the multi-sided Syrian Civil War set off an unprecedented wave of human flight. Over one million Syrian refugees fled their homeland in 2015. Swelling their ranks were Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans and Somalis fleeing their own wars, oppression and poverty.
The Greek island of Lesbos in the northern Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey, often referred to as ground zero for Europe’s migrant crisis, is a primary first stop for so many refugees. Albanian born photographer Enri Canaj has witnessed countless thousands surviving harrowing trips to step ashore with nothing but sorrow, fear, and yet, certain hope.
Canaj doesn’t just see the hope, he owns it. A refugee himself, just a young child, he felt the same mixing rush of fear and positive energy as his family crossed into Greece from Albania. “Hope is the gift,” he proclaims.
In the images of The Wind Cries War, his MROF 2016 co-winning grant project, he sees his father between the exhausted men, his mother in the long queues among the women. In the children trying quietly to be of help, and also to play a bit on the side, he sees himself. In silence, their eyes are full of voice.
But in hearts and minds of these exhausted refugees arriving, Greece is not their final destination. For them, Germany is the promise land. Having risked their lives in the Aegean Sea, they amazingly begin an odyssey of trains, cars, ferries and walking miles across six country boarders.
The Wind Cries War follows the many paths of these hope driven migrants. Canaj documents not only their difficult journeys, the failure of so many to ever reach this promise land, he captures the reality of the dream for some do arrive in Germany.
For some, this reality is anxiety and depression driven by family separation, homesickness and brutal memories of war and loss. Others must deal with the culture shock of their new western society. All are now confronting the xenophobia of a European Union tilting towards the far-right and naked anti-Islamic rhetoric.
Canaj’s stark black and white images in The Wind Cries War evoke the darkness of migration but in the lingering hope, viewers find light and beauty.