Australian photographer and visual documentarian, Saskia Wilson has seen first-hand the trauma of displacement. Having spent a large portion of time in Greece over 2016 and 2017 both volunteering and documenting the experience, she emerged with a body of work entitled ‘The Last Resort’. In this, Saskia examined the polarity of human experience in a country that was, and continues to be both a tourist destination and a nexus of the European refugee crisis.
These images from her exhibition have been graciously shared with us to accompany our conversation notes...
What made you want to visit the camps in Athens?
I knew the world was experiencing the largest mass migration since WWII and I wanted to participate in what was happening in a pragmatic way and somehow document that.
Were the camps what you expected?
I had done quite a lot of research before I left Australia so theoretically, I understood what was happening there, but nothing can prepare you for the levels of trauma, loss and violence that people you are working and socialising with everyday have experienced.
What is the day-to-day like for volunteers?
Unqualified volunteers can do really practical tasks like sorting clothes/food/supplies that are being donated or just facilitating activities in the camps themselves, but if you have any teaching, social work, childcare or legal expertise then those skills are really useful.
Can you share a little about the refugees you met?
I have never met more resilient and generous people. And I have never eaten so much in my life than when I was living and working in a camp surrounded by the most hospitable Syrian and Kurdish women cooking the most delicious food with the most basic supplies!
How did the experience affect you?
It really forced me to question the ethics of documentary photographic practices and encouraged me to acquire more useful skills to contribute there when going back the second time. It also motivated me to find practical ways to contribute to social issues being faced by people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds in Australia.