Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BRYAN MELTZ: African Resettlement in Georgia

Photograph © Bryan Meltz/ All rights reserved

Photograph © Bryan Meltz/ All rights reserved
Click image to enlarge
Photograph © Bryan Meltz/ All rights reserved

This project began in 2006 after working as a still photographer for a PBS documentary about refugee resettlement in America. I have had the privilege of getting to know these families, and been witness to their overwhelming spirit and resilience as they assimilate to American life, while still preserving the traditions of their culture.

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BRYAN MELTZ is a contributing photographer to the international photojournalism collective WIR Pictures and has collaborated with nonprofit organizations such as Engeye Health Clinic in Uganda, Just Cause, and AbsolutelyPositive, an AIDS service organization in Atlanta. She graduated with a Visual Journalism degree from The Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California and in 2005 was the recipient of the Yarka Vendrinska Memorial Scholarship Award for emerging female documentary photographer. Her editorial clients include Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, Financial Times, The Fader, Vibe, Blender, XXL, Mass Appeal, and Vice Magazine.

In the past twenty years nearly 50,000 refugees have resettled in and around Clarkston, Georgia, located ten miles east of Atlanta. It's estimated over 75 languages are now spoken in this small Georgian town. The majority of people resettled are from the African nations of Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, DRC, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Board of Health estimates show over 71% are female, and all of those are survivors of civil conflict, war, torture, trauma, rape and/or genocide.

"The Somali Bantu are becoming the largest African group from a single community to settle in the United States at one time, with nearly 13,000 arriving since 2004. Those who made it to America passed through rigorous security checks—a process that took from months to a year or more—and when they arrived they were confronted with a new world of difficulties. The Bantu, who were denied access to education and jobs, were almost completely untouched by modern life. Few could read or write in any language, and almost none spoke English. Most had never seen a light switch, a telephone, a set of stairs, or a building that wasn’t made of mud."

Meltz's portrait series Home Far From Home: Refugee Resettlement in Georgia has been recognized by the International Photography Awards, American Photo Images of the Year, annual Out of the South juried exhibit and a solo show at Composition Gallery in Atlanta. Bryan was one of 100 photographers invited to participate in Review Santa Fe 2009.

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