Where I left you? Oh, yes. That’s right. Rays continued with the camera. Then he wanted to be photographed. First he posed with open jacket. He regretted. Gave the jacket to a friend. Posed like a model. Celebrated “looking good, hah?” The rest migrants stared confused. I also got confused. I expected that Rays would capture a couple of intimate with his friends and maybe even illustrate the “suffering icon”, a spectacle of exceptionally emerging atrocity and terror in the contemporary world society, a discourse propagating ‘that there is more suffering than before and that people are more exposed to the suffering of others’(Fassin 2012: 27). However, after the slow distribution and a co-habitation of a couple of months in mundanely deprived life conditions, Rays wanted to disperse his fears away and design new dreams.
The distribution line came to be “models” line. Fashion icons overwhelmed Rays’s camera lens. These icons spurred me to explore a world of photographic images as costumes which each migrant ignores, values and undervalues during interactions with less and more significant players in the “game” of representation, media corporations, national and international NGOs, Nation-states, International forums such as United Nations and European Union(Ticktin 2011: 48). Never are icons made of and by pure imagination. They get neither pathetically adopted nor instantly borrowed. Instead, they are creatively appropriated and manipulated by each migrant, according to their asylum status, position in or out of the NGO, extent and quality of documentation by reporters and photo-journalists. In the process of decision-making, social media function as alternative fora of communicating recent migration plans or candidate destinations to settle(Dekker 2018: 2).
Rays claimed again the apparatus. Now, he challenged his friends and co-migrants “What are you staring at? Come, participate in the game.” As models campaign self-complacently their clothes and bodies in a fashion week or advertise products in front of a professional photographer in popular magazines, one by one stepped in for a camera-posing. A playful and experimental atmosphere supervened upon and within the shadowy front plaza of the camp. I followed unconsciously with my mobile phone, as I had left my other cameras at home. As Rouch reminds us, the process of film-making is connected with unconscious missteps inasmuch as with careful and orchestrated plans(De Bouzek 1989: 305). As I agreed with Rays from the start of the “game”, I would record film and he would take snapshots.
Faireh avoided the self-posing in front of the camera. His posture was '“spontaneous and awkward together”, he confessed to me. He did not understand why his co-migrants had so great expectations. His family works with relatively low salary in Belgium. So, why bother to play the great persona?
I hesitated to apply the name “fashion icon”. In the editing process, as I will reveal in another page, I chose the title “successful migrant” icon. Next day, the head-chef subscribed me in the list of volunteers. When I checked the list, I discovered that the most volunteers were mostly migrants, mostly from Syria and Lebanon. Full of gratitude and servitude towards the NGO that gave them a hand for escaping the anonymous class of “suffering” and a-politicized refugees and become recognized as persons with appreciated crafts and skills, the migrants felt convenient with a hot meal and within the channels of social networking of the NGO(Rozakou 2018: 151). However, one day, Hasan approached me and entrusted a Curriculum Vitae illustrating his adequate knowledge of Greek and his previous experience as plumber back in Lebanon. He pleased me to submit it to my friends and relatives from Thessaloniki, as he needed instantly economic . After I promised him that I would do the best I could, I asked him whether he was subscribed in platforms such as Indeed and Jobrapido which would assure him a space within weeks. After I asked NGO non-refugee volunteers why Hasan was not promoted to wage-earning positions, I received a cold and indifferent response. After Hasan realized this deadlock, and I presume not for the first time, he started pretending that he never gave me a CV and asking why his phone was not connected to the Wi-Fi network of the Refugee center. Next dau, he was more polite with me but inhibited to open the employability’s subject. Even though I felt discouraged from the apathy of the non-refugee volunteers, I affirmed Hasan that I submitted his CV to my friends and family.
Ali approaches with his lens near Mahmood and he in response makes a gesture with his extreme fingers. Ali did not have a clue what that meant and laughed. Some use it for signalling skateboard gangs giving surfing vibes. Some others use if for calling or radical figures. We will never know.
Not that I aspire to further recognition within my host country and NGO, but that I do not enjoy alternative choices that forces me to be adaptable and generous to what is provided to me. Not more, not less is necessary to survive. Some hot meal and safe shelter and I am satisfied overall. I have been from the early Syrians to come into Greece and I never expected that so many would follow. Yes, you see me competitive and willing to contribute to NGO. That’s because I find it fair to contribute first to any migrant and second back to the organisations which helped me when I first arrived.
Ahmed stepped in. Why only Yezin and Hasan contribute to the preparations for food distribution? I want also to participate. Neither Frank, the headchef, nor Harrisz did expect this kind of suggestion. Ahmed was one of the most turbulent migrants.
Other refugees do not invest so much effort in their life plans. “You do not have to wait for something to come to you. Why have you to sit for two years to take me to him”. Even though he criticised refugees being dependent on NGOs and their families, I felt he elaborated a heroising icon, a “successful migrant narrative” within the boundaries of the Refugee centre. Indeed, he was anticipating for a chance while under protection by the NGO he contribute to. His narrative reminded me the “good (im)migrant scenario”, the migrant that adapts more successfully than one’s co-ethnic fellows and other-ethnic migrants in the host community(Blair 2010). However, he does not divert from the suffering icon, that presents him as incapable to have full control of his life parameters and embraced the solitary icon, that requires him to be committed in his work in the NGO.
We were heading to the end of the interview. He was so shy or affected by any momental awkwardness that he had regretted already that he revealed too much details about his plan to go to Germany. I ask him if he would like to work or study. He chooses the second option. And I offer a hint. Studying in Germany is mostly free of charge. His eyes sparkled. “In Germany?” Enthusiast but also terrified, he adapts his following answers to his education plans. Was it a realised plan, a spontaneity of the moment, a game of mimetic, or a vision of unacknowledged origin?