Russell Chapman is a freelance photographer and writer. Originally from the UK, he is now based in Switzerland. He is well versed in Middle Eastern and Russian affairs. Using photography he tries to communicate strong messages and emotions in a way which will have a lasting impact on those who observe his work. His writing is based on a perspective that tries to look at events from different angles which are not always covered elsewhere.
He is recognized for his work in Syria, having been invited to present at international conferences such as Refugee Voices at the Refugee Studies Centre at St Annes College, Oxford University and Franklin University, Switzerland. His work was also exhibited at the Conference on Forced Migration in Washington DC.
The book, Syria: Refugees and Rebels, is a personal account documenting Chapman’s time in Syria in the Spring of 2013, as well as the refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan. In it, he talks about his experiences of this war torn country but the main focus is on his photo documentary of what he saw.
He went to Syria because he wanted to better understand what is really happening. His Syrian friends told him that only a part of the full picture is given in the news. The only way to get the full pictures was to go there himself. Over the course of the month that he was in Syria, he saw for himself the effects of the war on the people, his book is very much a reflection of that. Telling the story of a people who have lost so much, those who remain in the country and those who have fled to refugee camps.
His approach to photographing the situation was not that of the hit and run style, but rather, a more thoughtful approach. He spent a lot of time with the Syrian people, getting to know them better and in so doing, discovered that they were prepared to really open up to him and share their personal stories. As a result, the images he captured show more of the soul of the people rather than simply focusing on their distressed situation.
All the time he was on this project he lived as the people, he even spent a night in a refugee camp in Jordan to try and understand on some small scale what these people have to live with every day. His interest in Syria is very much humanitarian, the purpose of his work and his book specifically, is to show the real people, the fact that they are the same as people everywhere. They have the same hopes and dreams, the desire for security, a home, work and family. Simply because they are living through this terrible time does not make them somehow less than we who do not have these problems.
Before going to Syria, Chapman was able to raise money to buy medicines to help the Syrians. His desire is to continue this work, sales of the book go toward Chapman continuing, in his own small way, his work of giving a voice to those who have lost so much, as well as trying to help them directly.