Photography by Liliana Zaharia

Nihad photographed for Syndey Morning Herald

One of the most touching stories I photographed was for Sydney Morning Herald, with a girl named Nihad. Latika Bourke, who wrote the story, contacted me for the first time just one day in advance telling me that she needs someone to take a portrait in a 10 minute time frame. I always like a challenge and I accepted to go and meet her the next day, when she shortly presented me with Nihad’s story. She was a Yazidi asylum seeker, who has been kidnapped by the Islamic State, and now escaped to look for a new home in Australia. 

I met Nihad, who didn’t speak any English, and was stroke by her ethereal and mature look in her eyes, even though she was much younger than me. Despite the language barrier and very short time I had with her, I really wanted to portray her in a very truthful, collaborative way. That’s why I didn’t force any poses, and tried to make her feel relaxed and natural so she can represent herself the way she wanted to be seen. 

I think the result speaks for itself. Nihad has strong features and her expression tells us a lot. Even though I can’t imagine what she has been through, I hope that the images represent a new beginning for her and will tell the story in a manner that will be heard by other as well. 

Full story can be read here: https://www.smh.com.au/world/nihad-was-an-islamic-state-sex-slave-and-is-desperate-for-a-new-life-in-australia-20170512-gw3ijm.html

Thanks to Latika, who trusted me with this sensitive portrayal.