Jordi Matas, Photographer


Photo by UNHCR/J. Matis/2014.

Photo by UNHCR/J. Matas/2014.

On trips like this one to Jordan, less than a month ago, I had the privilege to meet people that came from Syria to Jordan, not by choice; I met humanitarian workers and high profile supporters, that in this case, came by choice – the choice to make a difference to the lives of people that they had never met before. My position was to look, and to try to disappear behind my camera, with the hope to contribute by showing, to as many as possible, what has happened to a group of people that were you and I less than 4 years ago.

I get to focus on what they want to show and share; where they live, how they made their shelter a home, and how they feel when they remember their time in Syria. I get to focus on what they allow me to see, and unfortunately, my senses focus mostly on the visual part. Unfortunately, because I can’t hear all their stories while I move around to see more, I don’t know all the details of their lives back in Syria, and their struggle to transition to being a refugee, I just get snippets of a conversation. I can see the pain, the loss and the fear, but also the hope and resilience, and how the instinct of survival appears when it has to.

The woman in this photo was days away from giving birth to her fifth child in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.  She cradled her then youngest daughter, who had been sleeping while her mother cried as she explained how much she grieved for Syria.  She is a woman of such grace, such love. Thinking about her makes me smile, just by remembering parts of her witty comments. I remember the way she would speak to her husband, and the way she would treat her children.

And this is what I see; The transformation of an ordinary person to an extraordinary one. The humanity of those affected by the war remains intact. Now it’s time to rebuild what’s been destroyed.


Jordi Matas is a Spanish freelance photographer, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. His work, with a strong focus on social and humanitarian issues, has taken him to about 20 countries in the last 2 years, from Africa to the Middle East, to Asia and Europe. Jordi Matas regularly photographs for international NGOs like UNHCR or UNICEF, and for newspapers like The Guardian and The Telegraph. His work has also appeared in Time Magazine, Newsweek, Stern or Vanity Fair.


1 family torn apart by war is too many

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