Clicking for refugees

Through her work, Maro has been able to bring out people’s sensibilities, love for humanity, for children, and to inform about crimes against freedom in societies. Some of her best pictures shot are those of refugee parents.

Liju Cherian –

IMAGES captured by Maro Kouri, an Unesco award-winning Greek photojournalist, are unique and different. Dedicated to her craft, her passion for live photography is exemplary. Through her work, Maro has been able to bring out sensibilities, love for humanity, for children, and convey about crimes against freedom in societies.
Maro says photography is an agent for the growth of soul. Explains Maro: “when you take pictures among people, you are entitled to open up. That’s the only way to come in contact with the person you are documenting. They have to trust you and the photographer has to understand, communicate and accept them just the way they are. So ego lowers and soul grows.”
Maro’s latest project is on art therapy for refugee children. She travelled to Mytilene, a refugee camp off Kara Tepe, Pikpa, and Mosaik where volunteers and NGOs organised art activities for refugee children. She filmed and interviewed the children, parents and social workers. Her target was to influence readers in order to communicate, connect each other, to open their hearts and give their love and support to those who need it regardless of their race and identity.
Some of her best pictures shot are those of refugee parents. “These people were forced to leave their homes in order to escape war, environmental dangers and death, carrying their children. They are my heroes, parents who, despite all dangers of cold, hunger, pain, depression, racism, homelessness, manage to maintain their tenderness and patience to the maximum.”
Now on her second visit to the Sultanate after a year, she led a six-day photojournalism workshop in Muscat with the support of Photographic Society of Oman (PSO).
Oman, she says, was her perfect choice for the workshop, as it is a country of aesthetic perfection, various landscapes, and beautiful light and importantly warm people. These pure elements inspire every photographer, she adds.
She held hectic sessions during the workshops. In Oman it was organised in collaboration with Mohammed Tiwany, a brilliant Omani photographer. The two-day workshop on ‘Street Souq Photography’ saw a large number of Omani participants. The present workshop was on advanced photography that approaches through image and text. The programme included an introductory day, a fulltime photographic journey and photo editing. The PSO was helpful in organising the workshop having an extended programme focusing on photojournalism. PSO invited her to present her work and she organised her first workshop in Oman in December 2015. It was an unforgettable experience, she recollects, and she wanted to come back to Oman for the second workshop.
Maro was driven to inspirations from life. She grew up in a lively neighbourhood in the centre of Athens. Her parents had a shop selling furniture and she was out all day, meeting people, walking around the streets and observing. “I didn’t have a camera back then and was taking pictures with my naked eyes. Vathi square, the neighbourhood, is still an inspiration to create art of photography and to catch thousands of moments of life. That’s what photojournalism is all about,” she recollects.
Villagers from the Greek countryside, gypsies, lawyers, professors, artists, families out for groceries, first migrants… the area was the first multicultural side in Athens and for Maro as a child this was her living kaleidoscope!
“The Oman workshop participants were geared into photojournalism spirit waiting for the magic moment to click photographs. On the other hand, the Sultanate offers many gifts for photographers namely the nature, sea, souqs, architecture, landscapes of the desert and the oasis.”
As a freelance photojournalist, Maro travelled all over the world and published photographs and stories on peace and humanity for the past 25 years. She has been teaching photojournalism and led numerous workshops.
In October 2016, two students of the Athens School of Fine Arts asked her if she could organise a photojournalism workshop to an exotic country outside Europe with different culture, far away from western style.
Maro recounts how she was privileged to enter a Greek prison as a teacher of photography for female prisoners. The women participated in the art therapy programme, trying to recover from drug addiction.
“I was moved by their photographic gaze. Their photographs expressed the power of freedom and their desire to become masters in their life again. I also visited teenage prisoners, where I covered their acting rehearsals. Impressed by their talent, I took photographs but my favourite are the ones from the parties, with the female prisoners holding babies in their arms.”
Life has moved for Maro from one challenge to the other and she willingly takes up all in her stride.