Striking Photos by Teenagers Living in Jordan's Za'atari Refugee Camp

These photographers balance the traditional teen complexities of adulthood and identity with having to redefine their sense of home.

by Michelle Heimerman
Jun 6 2019, 12:00pm

Photo by Nour Mahmoud al-Dhahir

It’s an early November afternoon and four teenage girls sit together in the back of a classroom in the Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. They’re wearing silk patterned shirts with ripped jeans, leopard-print hijabs, and shoes that look like TOMS. You can hear some bass through the wall, coming from the Zumba class in the gym next door. A few boys scurry past the doorway, across the sunny courtyard to the soccer field. Inside, the girls are whispering, laughing, and sipping cans of Pepsi while waiting for class to begin. They're here for a weeklong photography class run by the Lens on Life Project, a New York City–based nonprofit organization providing photography and computer literacy training for marginalized youth around the world, where they strive to engage local communities, empower youth, and sustain settings in which students can share their stories and gain new skills to enter the global workplace.

The kids will eventually leave this class and return to endless rows of white trailers by the thousands. These caravan homes make up the camp, miles from the girls' homes in Syria, on the Jordanian side of the border. During their teen years, a period in life rife with the complexities of self-identity and growing up, they also deal with the concept of redefining your home and what it means to be labelled a refugee and raised in a refugee camp.

The following images are a selection of student work from the Za’atari camp.

Photo by Nour Mahmoud al-Dhahir, 14 years old
Photo by Ayman Saud al-Hariri, 14 years old
Photo by Ayman Saud al-Hariri, 14 years old
Photo by Alaa', 21 years old
Photo by Abed-Al-Hadi
Photo by Fatima Yousif Sado al-Hariri, 17 years old
Photo by Raneem Mohamed Awadh al-ryani, 18 years old
Photo by Fatima Yousif Sado al-Hariri, 17 years old
Photo by Batool al-Dhahiri, 14 years old
Photo by Bilal Yusuf al-Hariri, 16 years old
Photo by Alaa', 21 years old
Photo by Usama Rafaat al-Hariri
Za'atari refugee camp