Abdel-Sabour: Photography is a vital necessity

After fleeing Afghanistan in 2015, Abdul-Sabour felt an urgent need to document the daily lives of exiles he encountered on his way. Now a refugee in France, he depicts migrants stranded on the northern coast, on the border between France and England. Hoping things will change.

The woman did not fall, but Abdul still blamed himself. The scene took place on the stairs of the Paris metro. Abdul sees a woman about to fall; He pulls out his camera. And very quickly reprimands his gesture. The Afghan young man explains in English. : “I should have helped that woman, not try to take a picture!” » He goes to see her and apologizes: “I am first a human being, then a photographer.”

In Calais, he was asked by British media to photograph the survivors of a boat that capsized in the English Channel while trying to reach England. “I got to the shore: people were getting out of the water, they had no shoes. They were cold and hungry. There was a pregnant woman.”

Abdul puts the device away to save them. He explains the situation to the English media: “You are so nice to be a photojournalist”, we dice. The photographer is sitting in front of a cup of tea a few steps from Montparnasse station in Paris. Repeats the sentence as if to hide a hidden meaning.

home anywhere

Half an hour ago, the 30s got off the train from Toulouse. Thanks to his haircut (short on the sides, long curls on top of the head) and Leica hanging over his shoulder, he is easily visible among travelers. in his jacket pocket and his mobile phone; In a backpack, his computer. Behind him, he pulls out a small suitcase with wheels containing some clothes and hard drives. “All my life is here.” His whole life there.

Today Abdul is identified as the Afghan photographer documenting the daily lives of exiles stranded on the northern coast, on the border between France and England, as he identifies himself with their fate. The young man is not sure of his place of birth. Nor history. Let’s say it was March 1992. My mother was pregnant and had to flee Afghanistan with my father to seek refuge in Pakistan. I was born in the mountains, maybe in Afghanistan or maybe Pakistan. At that time, there was no GPS. »

For a long time, he did not feel at home anywhere. In Pakistan, children would ask me: ‘When are you going home? And I said to myself: But where is the house? He discovers Afghanistan after a few years. For four or five years, he led construction machinery for a US Army subcontractor. The Taliban shot him three times. Abdul points to his left shoulder, lower back, and ankle. Sometimes, when he conjures up a dramatic event, he laughs. “We either laugh or we cry.”

Abdul arrived completely helpless and shocked.

Georges Lavon, friend of Abdel Sabour.

In 2015, he left Afghanistan, which became very dangerous for him. The fate of his father and older brother sums it up in one word: “killing”. You are. The photographer lists the countries that crossed: Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Italy … Two years later, he arrived in France. “Today, if I am asked to leave here, I cannot. I no longer have the strength.”

“A slave arrived completely helpless and shocked.” George Lavon, a septuagenarian who welcomed him into his home in November 2017, testifies, out of fear, the young man kept the light up day and night. “He came from another world. He spoke a little. The medical care and papers were the most urgent.” George helps him understand how to get around Paris, withdraw money from ATMs, and get on the train on time. “He grew up in the countryside, did not go to school much, but learns very quickly. »

Not in a zoo

The Afghan young man lived two and a half years with George : “Everything has always been going well. He is a very good listener, and understands how people work even if they come from completely different backgrounds than his. He does not judge them.”

On the way to the Balkans, Abdul photographs the exiles with his mobile phone. The police confiscate him, and cut him to pieces. In Serbia, a woman sensitive to his gait gives him a camera to continue walking. submitted for presentation. Recently, he bought himself a Leica. “It’s small, it’s practical. I love working in 35mm, it forces me to be close to people.” Devices with long magnification, too little for him: “We are not in a zoo.”

In Calais and Grand Synthe, some immigrants tell me: “What you say comes from our hearts.”

Adel Al-Sabour.

“Before photographing people, I tell them that it is important to talk about what we, immigrants, are going through.” He hopes things will change his way. “I can’t promise them anything, but I have to try.” If someone refuses to be photographed, he does not insist. “Now, in Calais and Grand Synthe, some immigrants know me. Some have seen me on TV. They tell me: ‘What you say comes from our hearts.'”

Louis Witter, also a photographer, met his Afghan counterpart in Calais a year ago. “His image changes the representation of the exiles that we can have.” They often wish not to be photographed or unrecognized. “Abd, he takes the time to talk to people, to understand their journey. Those he photographed always agree. Some even smile. He is very close to people.”

Today, Abdul sells his photos to newspapers, like times. “People sometimes ask me if I like doing what I do. This question always surprises me I don’t take these pictures because I love them. I take these pictures because I have to!”

I don’t take these pictures because I love them. I take these pictures because I have to!

Abdul patience.

The day I meet a slave is like his present life: morning in Toulouse, noon in Paris, and evening in Calais. In Toulouse, he gives photography lessons in fine arts. In Calais, he takes pictures of changing poses: I would like there to be no more camps, so that there are legal channels for immigration. If I want things to change, I must do what is within my reach. »

In Paris, he recharges his batteries thanks to his friends who are about to become a new family. There are also its attractions: expensive Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian or Afghani restaurants, around the Gare du Nord; Hairdressing salon in Barbis. “Slowly, I got used to France. Now I am glad to be here. » He says that France today is like home.

Discover Abdel Sabour’s website: ww.abdulsaboorjan123.com

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