Photography exhibition on Baghdad’s children

We saw their faces on television, on the front pages of newspapers, on the Internet. At times carefree and playful but mostly sad and scared, their gazes traveled the world, sending their own special message. These are the children of Baghdad. Greek photographer Anna Papoulia traveled to Baghdad in 1999. The reason? Curiosity, she says. «Why don’t we see photographs of houses, streets, parks and shops?» she asks. «I was under the impression that there is no daily life in Iraq.» Inspired by these thoughts, she took a risky decision and found herself in Iraq with a camera in hand. The mission’s photographic crop, the photographs of these «Children of Baghdad» are currently on display at the Adam Gallery in Kolonaki. It was no easy task. Papoulia knew all too well that the children were the great victims of the long-lasting embargo. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein’s regime wouldn’t leave her alone. «In order to take portraits of the children, I was given special permission by the Ministry of Information. I was authorized to take pictures in eight specific city areas, all chosen by the ministry,» says Papoulia. «The suggestions I had put forward were only partly taken into account and, therefore, I was not granted permission to take photographs in schools and nurseries, for instance. This resulted in a certain work order – not scheduled from the beginning – that, given the pressure and a certain number of outside forces, was not followed consistently. Extreme outside intervention included police or ‘supervisor’ orders to change my photographic angle, so that certain details would not be captured on film,» says the photographer. Overall, Papoulia avoided easy sentimentalism; instead, she focused on the children’s impulsiveness, which gave her the means to present a lively, truthful and human picture of a difficult era. The exhibition «The Children of Baghdad» is on at the Adam Gallery, 5 Neofytou Vamva, Kolonaki. Tel. 210.360.1770. The exhibition runs to June 28.

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