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I got on board of a ship in Libya which had to bring us to Italy. I couln’t take anything with me except the clothes I was wearing and a tiny little piece of paper with the phone number of my family on it. They told me to contact them soon after my ariving in Italy.
About half way en route to Italy the ship overturned. It was already very old. My clothes were soaking with sea water and were getting heavy so I had to take them off. They disappeared in the sea.
With them the piece of paper with the phone number.
I survived together with about 200 others. Over 250 have drowned.
Months after my escape from Eritrea I found someone in Switzerland who could contact my family. They thought I didn’t survive the crossing by ship.
The piece of paper with their number was the most important thing that I owned.

What the project is all about:

People that have to flee from their country, can only take the things with them that are most important to them. The non-profit project ImPORTRAITS portrays refugees with their most important item and gives them the platform to tell about their origin, the reason, why they had to abandon their homes and why the chosen item means so much to them. The projects outcome is a photo book and an exhibition and all of the outcome will be donated to the refugees. We live in abundance, while others are forced to give all up. The viewer of the picture is encouraged to reflect as well, – What is really important? What would I take with me, if I had to flee?

The complete project description is available at http://www.importraits.ch/projekt/

Here’s what we need support for:

The printing, binding, design and implementation of the book is very time consuming and costly. The time we do have, but we do not have all the money in order to realize the project. In total we need 25’000 Swiss Francs for the production of the book. Despite generous financial contributions from diverse foundations, own financial contributions and private donations, we still need 10’000 Swiss Francs in order to be able to produce the book.

The photo book:

  • Edition: 1000
  • Format: aprox. 28x28cm (not fix yet)

  • Offset 4 color print
  • Hardcover with embossing
  • aprox. 112 pages
  • English/German
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  • June 10 - 26, 2016, Swiss Photo Awards, Photobastei 2.0, Zürich
  • Private View: June 23, 2016 from 4pm, Parzelle 403, Basel
  • Preview: June 25, 2016 from 3pm, Parzelle 403, Basel
  • Exhibition: July 1 – August 31, 2016, Parzelle 403, Basel

It’s important to raise awareness on the topic and most of all to help the integration of refugees. Thus, one the exhibition is over, th portraits are available for touring exhibitions in schools and other institutions.


What happens with the money from the book sale?

After all expenses are covered, we will donate all the rest of the money to the Oekumenischen Seelsorgedienst für Asylsuchende (www.oesa.ch), which is supporting this project greatly and helps refugees from all around the world since more than 2 decades now.

How is this project helping the refugees?

On one side the project shows who these people are, coming to Switzerland and looking for shelter. It also aims at fighting the distrust many refugees are facing. On the other side all money from the project will be donated to the refugees.
Worst case scenario would be that it only makes people think about what really matters in life. Best case scenario would be that the project makes people change their attitude against refugees.

Here is what you get:

From a postcard set, the «ImPORTRAITS» photo book, a personal Headshot Session with me – everything is possible. Choose your goodie and I am looking forward to get to know you personally!

Can you support the project without money?

Absolutely! To help raise awareness, share your selfie with the object you would bring on Twitter or Instagram by using the hashtag #importraitsproject, or by posting on the Facebook page. All photos will be featured in the imPORTRAITS homepage. It would be also awesome if you could share this campaign on your social media channels.

Who is behind this project?

The ImPORTRAITS project is backed by the ImPORTRAITS association. The photography and conceptual part is done by me (Gabriel Hill) , but I am getting help from various volunteers and without them the project wouldn’t be possible. We are also getting big support from the following organisations: Oekumenischen Seelsorgedienst für Asylsuchende, Schweizerisches Arbeiterhilfswerk – Region Basel, Hilfswerk der evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz and Caritas beider Basel.

Thank your very much for your support!