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Return to Ein el Helweh, Lebanon.

Ein el Helweh, 2017.

Lebanon DocumentaryWhy am I returning to Ein el Helweh? Some years ago – I was in Jerusalem. In the place where Jesus was crucified. I do not consider myself to be religious person. But this place stunned me. Just shocked me into silence. And that takes a lot. A young Irish Priest came to ask me if I was OK. I told him I was fine. He said; “Just take it in”. Which I did.

I was there to travel to The West Bank to document a medical centre, where some money had been donated by my family following my eldest brother’s death in 2002. And since then – I have been travelling the world taking photographs of the most exceptional people. Undertaking work in the most difficult of circumstances.

Soon I will be returning to Lebanon. To spend a short time in Beirut. Then head south to Ein el Helweh. To meet a very dear friend of mine – Oyoun Shabayta.

Ein el Helweh is considered the most dangerous camp in Lebanon. And even in recent weeks there have been clashes. Really serious clashes.

Ein el Helweh: Oyoun Shabayta.

Oyoun Shabayta.

Oyoun is the Field Education Coordinator for the American NGO, ANERA. I first met Oyuon at the end of 2015, and was so moved by this brilliant young woman I returned to the camp in April 2016.

That gave me the chance to meet her family, who had been refugees in the camp – her Grandmother since 1948. And heard how the family were driven out of their homes by the Israelis – but promised by a British Officer that they would be back in a week.

This is part of a photography project. This will not only document the life of Oyoun and her family but, later in the year, I will travel to their family village of Hittin to photograph one of the many Palestinian villages that were destroyed by Israel in 1948. A place they cannot return to.

But Oyoun and her family still keep working hard. Still holding the community together.

Palestinians, to use a card phrase, have been given a very ‘short hand’ over the last 100 years. And Britain has to take some responsibility in that. I’m British. But I just have a camera.

And despite all the dreadful things that Oyoun and her family have seen – even in recent weeks – they keep the world spinning around.