Collecting Egg Rations

In 2017 Emma Brown’s image entitled ‘Collecting Egg Rations, Smara Refugee Camp’ was the winning image of our World Food Programme Food for Life category.

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Image Description: Every two weeks, in the refugee camps near Tindouf in Algeria, the Women of each family collect egg rations distributed by the Sahrawi Red Crescent. The majority of Sahrawis are refugees today in one of the harshest desert environments in the world, their homeland of Western Sahara is the last colony in Africa and the site of a protracted territorial dispute.

Technical: Canon 5D Mark III, f4, 1/400s, 320iso

Please tell us more about capturing your Finalist image. For example, what was happening around you, what inspired the shot, what time of day, and the challenges you had in capturing it.

I've been documenting life in the Sahrawi refugee camps since 2012 and photographing the distribution of rations has been on my wish list for the past couple of years. Early one morning Zorgan, our translator shouted out, “Emma, today it’s the day of egg rations, do you want to go?" Within minutes I found myself in the midst of a huge crowd of women, it looked like chaos, but was in fact precisely organised waiting, queuing and collection at the Red Crescent distribution point. Despite the crowds, the shouting, chatting, laughing and frantic waving of ration cards, I didn't see any eggs get broken. Everyone collected their eggs and crouched nearby to count and check for damages and gave each other space to do so. Working fast and carefully watching my step (literally!), using my rudimentary Arabic and sign language I asked people if I could photograph them. Zorgan, had decided I'd be best off going into the crowds on my own, a woman amongst women. He was right, everyone was happy to have their photograph taken and all replied with a smiling 'afwan' (you are welcome) to my 'shukran' (thank you).

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What was it about the image that you feel fitted the category so well?

The photograph fits the 'humanitarian' part of the brief at the same time as presenting a different view on a refugee situation, these young women are smiling and laughing with arms full of fresh food. It’s a contrast to the photographs we see of suffering refugee communities, images of people without hope.

How did it feel to be a Finalist for the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2017?

It’s so many things, primarily inspiring, closely followed by an honour... to look around the exhibition and be in the company of so many hugely talented, passionate and dedicated photographers.

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What would you say attracts you most to the photography of food?

That food is both personal and universal... we all have our own personal tastes, our food loves and loathes, but food and sustenance is a universal need. These things that we have in common with others from all around the world, these are things we can bond over, things that can bring us together and spark a conversation across languages.

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We would love to hear about any recent projects?

I’ve recently returned from running a Participatory Photography training programme in the Sahrawi Refugee Camps. With a group of nine young refugees we looked at building visual literacy, storytelling and creative composition skills through an intensive series of workshops. The incredible photographs they took in just a few weeks is the beginning of a collection of stories, everyday stories that are to be seen and heard by a new audience, both here in the UK and beyond.

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By offering participants a safe place to come together and learn new skills our aim with this training program is to develop confidence in young refugees, to enable them to visually document their own stories, thereby reducing isolation of a remote refugee community through the sharing of photography.

To connect with Emma visit:
Website: www.emmabrownphotography.com
Twitter: @emmaphotoartist
Instagram: @emma_louise_brown

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