“Refugee Camp” by Brian McCarty
Lebanon remains at the heart of fierce conflict, which makes toy photographer Brian McCarty’s “War Toys” project an ongoing effort. The project is currently focused on representing the perspectives of Iraqi, Syrian, Kurdish, Palestinian, and Lebanese child refugees as a result of continuous war. Covered here, he has also visited West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, Ukraine, Sudan and Colombia. Today, there are over 1 million refugees alone – out of a total population of 4.8 million in Lebanon. Since 2014, McCarty has been working throughout the region to gather various accounts from Lebanese and Syrian children in cooperation with the Kayany Foundation and his team, including art therapist Myra Saad.
“Refugee Camp”: Several children at a refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon focused on their lives now compared to before the war.
Their stories are told in their drawings. While some chose to share their past, as in one Syrian boy’s drawing of his family fleeing their home country, others focus on the future. Outside Tripoli, McCarty met some Lebanese boys that had even participated in heavy sectarian fighting, a few with ISIL-linked groups. Ironically, just this week, ISIL has taken one of his photographs without consent and manipulated it for their own propaganda purposes. Their images then provide the inspiration for McCarty’s own photographs of toys, sourced from local stores, in war racked environments. Often, these were taken immediately outside of the refugee camps. Despite the grueling hardship they had endured, at the “War Toys” website, McCarty recounts that children left their sessions feeling positive and empowered. Take a look at some of their images below, and the stories behind them courtesy of Brian McCarty.
“Hope to Leave a World of War” by Brian McCarty
“Hope to Leave a World of War”: A boy who had recently fled Syria showed his wish to fly away from a world of war. The photo was shot just outside of the refugee camp where the boy lives, seen in the background. The toys and globe came from a shop less than a mile away.
“Last Dinner in Syria” by Brian McCarty
“Last Dinner in Syria”: A girl inside a Syrian refugee camp made a seemingly innocuous drawing of a family at dinner. In talking with art therapist Myra Saad, she revealed that this was the last time she saw her father alive. He got up from the dinner table to investigate gunfire outside and was killed. The family fled Syria the next day. The photo was shot in a now unused UNICEF tent within the camp.
“Home Destroyed by a Tank”: A Syrian boy drew about his home which had been destroyed by a tank, forcing his family to flee.
“Home Destroyed by a Tank” by Brian McCarty
“Burning Heart”: Outside Tripoli, several boys at the NADER center drew burning hearts, symbolizing their passion for things like sect, family, and country the things they felt were worth fighting for. Many of the boys had been exposed and even participated in heavy sectarian fighting, a few with ISIL-linked groups.
“Burning Heart” by Brian McCarty
Left: Original image by Brian McCarty, Right: Appropriation by ISIL. (They used and doctored his image without his permission on the internet.)