Arab Australian photographer Sabra a finalist in the Qantas Spirit of Youth awards

Gazing at a portrait of Gaza


Stephanie Zevenbergen

March 5, 2013

Hume Weekly 

HIS photographs portray a silent picture of suffering in Palestine, of people stuck in violent conflict.

Telling the stories of refugees in Palestine through photography is close to Ahmad Sabra’s heart.

For the 27-year-old Broadmeadows resident, a recent trip to the Gaza Strip in Palestine proved memorable in more ways than one. Firstly, it was a trip back to his native land; now the photos he took there are receiving accolades in Australia.

Sabra, a photographer, is one of 13 national finalists in the Qantas spirit of youth awards 365 (SOYA), which offer the first-prize winner $5000 for air travel.

Last year, across 11 categories, SOYA drew more than 20,000 entries from more than 2400 young artists, designers, filmmakers, photographers and musicians.

Sabra is also one of 53 finalists for the National Portrait Gallery’s national photographic portrait prize. The winner takes home $25,000.

He says photographing refugees has personal meaning for him as he migrated to Australia from Lebanon in 1997. ‘‘I have a soft spot for them,’’ he says. ‘‘Growing up in Lebanon we used to see all the refugee camps. Going back to Gaza and seeing their living conditions motivated me to do more with Palestine.’’

Sabra’s work includes portraits of Palestinian orphans, young refugees and fishermen.

The photo he entered in the National Portrait Gallery is of a child whose father was killed by Israel.

‘‘The child in the orphanage has got a quirky smile on his face,’’ he says.

‘‘Most of the people in Gaza are refugees. My whole idea was to document living as a refugee.

‘‘Government policies in Australia should be supporting the Palestinian cause. Another reason I take these photos is to raise awareness of what they go through and to possibly help.’’

The national photographic portrait prize-winner will be announced on Thursday and the SOYA winner on March 11.

This article appeared in Hume Weekly

(A correction was made since this article was first posted, Hume Weekly made an error  Sabra is of  Syrian Arab origin, therefore the title of this posting changed from Palestinian Australian to Arab Australian.  Thanks to Sabra for bringing this to my attention)