Ed Kashi’s Portraits of Azerbaijani IDPs’ Unresolved Dreams Brought to Paris

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A stunning exhibition of photos by award-winning photographer Ed Kashi, taken in camps for Azerbaijani Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees, has opened in Paris to commemorate UN World Refugee Week. The exhibition was organised by the French office of The European Azerbaijan Society.

Photographer Ed Kashi in Paris

Award-winning photographer Ed Kashi answers questions at the exhibition opening in Paris

The subjects understood that these photographs would be displayed around the world to raise awareness that the conflict remains unresolved, and they are still unable to return home.

New York-based Ed Kashi is one of the world’s leading photojournalists, having worked for the National Geographic, Newsweek, Time and The New York Times. Co-founder of the VII Photo Agency, he has spent his life documenting areas of the world impacted by human tragedies. Commissioned by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), Ed recently pointed his lens towards some of the Azerbaijani internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who are the ongoing casualties of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Charting their everyday lives in four displacement camps across Azerbaijan, the startling results are now on display at the Galerie Joseph (Froissart). The Unresolved Dreams exhibition, organised by TEAS, runs from 19–25 June. On 18 June, around 90 people attended the opening, in the presence of Ed Kashi himself, including fellow photographers, journalists, diplomats and musicians.

Melissa Regan Devogele, Head of Sales and Marketing, Galerie Joseph, said: “I am pleased to welcome TEAS back to the Galerie Joseph with another stunning collection of photographs. We frequently feature photography in this branch of the Galerie Joseph, and I am delighted that these emotional, creative photographs by the renowned Ed Kashi are displayed tonight.”

Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France, commented: “Tonight, we are presenting the works of Ed Kashi, the great American photojournalist. Amongst other awards, Ed was the winner of the World Press Photo competition in 2011, and in 2010 won both the UNICEF Photo of the Year award and the Prize Pictet, a global photographic prize. His seven books of photographs have been distributed across the world, and Photojournalism – his latest publication – is a reference book on the subject.

“Tonight, we are presenting a series of photographs that illustrate the plight of the estimated 875,000 Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs as part of the commemoration of UN World Refugee Week. The country has one of the highest IDP populations per capita in the world. For more than 20 years, following the fall of the Soviet Union, the Armenian army occupied around 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory, comprising Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia have just commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the ceasefire between the two countries, but the conflict is always alight.

“The photos in this exhibition illustrate the lives of those who have been displaced from their homeland over a long period. All have one simple wish – to have the possibility of returning to their rightful land. I hope this exhibition will serve to humanise the IDPs and refugees. It is my sincere wish that it will engage the international community with the understanding that the conflict urgently needs to be resolved so it is unnecessary for the men, women and children affected by this situation to suffer for another day. I hope that, one day, both Azerbaijan and Armenia will achieve peace and learn to respect each other.”

Ed Kashi explained: “I had the privilege of visiting Azerbaijan to look at the refugee and IDP situation. I have worked as a photojournalist for 30 years around the world. Sadly, I have seen too many refugee situations – unfortunately this is an ongoing and growing problem. As this is UN World Refugee Week, this is an important moment to think about this and to consider what can be done to resolve such issues.

“Photographing the IDPs and refugees in Azerbaijan was a learning experience. I was already aware of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh that occurred during the fall of the Soviet Union, but many people have forgotten this as it happened over 20 years ago.

“It’s important to remember that these people are still in a limbo state. However, I note that the Azerbaijani government is building new settlements and realising that these people need their care and assistance. For Azerbaijan, this is a critically important issue.

“The scenes in the photos were almost entirely spontaneous. I like to work in close-up to capture the people’s emotions, and have come to understand the role that I play. I always explained to those portrayed what I was doing and informed them of how the images would be used. I found that the older people would often tell me their stories and be reduced to tears. TEAS were instrumental in ensuring that the subjects understood that these photographs would be displayed around the world to raise awareness that the conflict remains unresolved, and they are still unable to return home.”

The speech was followed by a question-and-answer session.

19–25 June
Unresolved Dreams: Azerbaijan’s Refugees and IDPs
Galerie Joseph, 7, rue Froissart,
75003 Paris, France
1000–1800hrs. Entrance free.

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