Fraud Blocker

The family in Richard Wainwright’s image never imagined they’d be photographed as refugees. But Zeena and Ala’a  became two of many ordinary people trying to survive in an extraordinary situation, writes Richard Wainwright.

©Richard Wainwright 


In March last year when on assignment in Jordan for Australian based aid agency Act for Peace there was considerable press coverage on the millionth refugee to have fled Syria. Just over a year later there are now more than 2.5 million refugees and that number is increasing daily.

What really brought home the human cost of the Syrian conflict to me was the simplicity of seeing a tattered old suitcase that contained the entirety of a family’s possessions.

Like most other refugees, Ala’a (29), Zeena (26), Ammer (4) and Mohammed (1) only managed to bring what they could carry across the border. An ordinary, hard working family from the Syrian city of Homs, they once had their own bakery business, family home, car, they enjoyed holidays and had hopes for the future but their entire lives ended up being destroyed by the conflict.

Now sheltering in a bare room in Amman, Zeena explained, “We fled Syria across the border into Jordan and could only carry this suitcase with a few clothes and food for the baby. It was cold and dangerous, I cannot explain how awful it’s been for the children.”

I only spent about 45 minutes with Ala’a and Zeena but their quiet dignity, devotion to their family and resilience to the horrendous situation they found themselves in was both humbling and inspiring.

©Richard Wainwright 

I asked them if they ever expected they would be in this situation. The both looked at each and laughed. Zeena told me they had seen the demonstrations on TV but never thought it would affect them directly. They never thought they’d end up as refugees. Zeena went on to say, “If it’s secure we shall return to Syria. Our house is destroyed so we will have to start from the beginning but I’d rather go back.”

Zeena and her family represent just one of the many thousands of people affected by the violent conflict in Syria who need assistance.


bg-ctap-mobile bg-ctap-desktop

AddOn submissions open

AddOn is an ideal entry point for photographers to become involved in this year’s Head On Photo Festival.

© Head On Foundation (detail)