The news is constantly flooded with stories of Syrian refugees – the numbers, the horrific conditions, questions about their intentions. But Deniz Calagan, a German photographer, saw beyond this. He simply saw people: people just like me and you.

Last month, Deniz made the “no brainer” decision to travel to Turkey as part of a project organised by the International Medical Corps. It aims to get to know Syrian refugees in an attempt to humanise them. He created “The Face of the Refugee Crisis”, a gallery of 40 striking black and white portraits accompanied by the individual stories of those captured in the photos.

The only thing that makes Syrian refugees different from us is luck

Deniz Calagan. Photo: International Medical Corps

“Many seem to expect the worst from refugees. I have heard people say they are coming to Europe for wealth and economic reasons – others criticise them for fleeing rather than staying in Syria and defending their country. It makes me angry – how can you blame someone for making the choice to keep their children and their families safe?” – Deniz.

Deniz hopes that the gallery will put a face next to the headline, and will tell the stories of the real refugees beyond the statistics they represent. He did he best to shoot every portrait straight on, looking each refugee in the eye, as equals.

One story particularly stood out to Deniz – that of Ibrahim Nasar. Ibrahim had been paralysed by a sniper’s bullet just four weeks after getting married. His family escaped to Turkey to find treatment to help his disability, and found International Medical Corps’ rehabilitation specialists in Gazianstep, one of four centres they currently run. He learned how to lie down, even how to sit, which protected his spine and enabled his recovery.

“I think the most heart-breaking thing about dealing with children is that it is always the grown-ups who start the war – yet the kids often have to deal with the worst consequences. I respect each of these individuals for everything they have had to overcome – and for the fact that despite everything they have not given up on hope.” – Deniz.

The most poignant thing about the project is that the portraits are not just pictures taken of refugees. They are portraits of people. People who didn’t choose the conflict and are entitled to a decent life. This is what Deniz and the International Medical Corps believe is the most important thing to take away from the work they are doing.

To see the full gallery and learn the stories behind the portraits, please visit:

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Helena Vine is currently studying History at the University of Edinburgh, and loves anything making the world a better place.

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