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Photographers capture tales from Jordan River’s east bank

By Dana Al Emam - Mar 17,2014 - Last updated at Mar 17,2014

AMMAN — Hajj Sulaiman Darwish was delighted to see aspects of his life as a refugee on the east bank of the Jordan River documented in snapshots and exhibited at a festival.

"I am very happy that my life could generate ideas and inspiration for photographers," Darwish told The Jordan Times on Saturday at the opening of a photography exhibition that depicts life "On the Banks of Jordan River" at Darat Al Tasweer.

When Darwish moved with his family across the river to Jordan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, he was 15 years old, according to Hussam Manasrah, the photographer who documented the refugee's life.

"Hajj Darwish told me all about his suffering during the trip, the difficulties he faced and about his lifestyle," the amateur photographer said, noting that Darwish still lives near the river bank and "not in a refugee camp".

Commenting on his first experience in a photography exhibition, Manasrah said he is thinking of expanding his project to include all Palestinians living by the river.

His photography project, along with those of 10 other photographers on display, is the result of a workshop held last November by the Goethe Institute of Jordan and Darat Al Tasweer. 

Participants were asked to visit the Jordan River and its surroundings to apply what they learned in the workshop and come up with individual photography projects based on their observations. 

Ahmad Aqraa chose to document natural sites near the river.

"Before going to the assigned area, I researched the sites I was planning to visit online and used the help of a tour guide," he told The Jordan Times, adding that he took over 100 photos, seven of which were exhibited.

Aqraa made it a point to explain his photography project to the exhibition's visitors and receive their feedback. "It is important for me to know what people think of my project and to listen to their comments."

German photographer Heinrich Volkel, who trained the workshop participants, said he tried to provide Jordanian photographers with "new inferences".

"The five-day workshop also aimed to enable photographers to work on a project beyond just snapping pictures," Volkel said, noting that they learned to concentrate on how to turn an idea into a project.

It was important for the entire workshop group to "see, smell and feel" the Jordan River area, he added.

Linda Al Khoury, founder of Darat Al Tasweer, said the exhibition is part of the fourth month-long Image Festival, organised by the darat in cooperation with Institut Français under the theme "Together".

"The Jordan River exhibition received the largest number of visitors since the beginning of the festival," she said, adding that all the 11 participating photographers had a role in spreading the word among their family members and friends.

"This photography exhibition will remain open until March 31," she noted.

Goethe Institute Director Christiane Krämer-Hus-Hus said the photography workshop held in Amman is part of a regional project called "From Casablanca to Dubai" which aims to collect stories of rivers and shores across the region.

"Selected works from regional exhibitions will be gathered in a big exhibition in Arab countries and later in Germany," she said.

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