At her family's home in Amman, Jordan, 26-year-old Hamida brings out cakes and sweet treats whilst giving a tour of her photography studio space in her home. Although a basement flat, the room is full of perfect natural lighting, a shelf of props to one side and her framed exhibition pieces piled in the corner.

Hamida kneels, taking a photo of muffins on a table.
“I prepare the food and set it up as I see it,” Hamida explains on her process of food photography. “There won't be any Photoshop or additions to beautify the picture, making the picture look 100% natural”
Photo: Dalia Khamissy for the IRC

“I love photography a lot because I used to feel like I was a person who couldn't express [myself]”, Hamida says. “Some people express themselves through painting, some through singing, some through music, and I discovered that I express myself through photography. First, it releases energy. Secondly, it delivers messages to people.” 

“I express myself through photography” 

Hamida discovered her love for photography when she was asked to take photos for an organization she was working for in 2016. Now, she can’t imagine herself without her camera.

I feel that I and the camera are inseparable. Wherever I go, it must be.

Hamida smiles, holding her camera in her hand.
“I'm proud of the most in my life, of the stage I've reached,” says Hamida. “I always say the phrase, ‘Freedoms are seized.’ No one is going to give us our freedom and say, "Here is the path in front of you.”
Photo: Dalia Khamissy for the IRC

Hamida recalls how  the Resilient Futures program, run by the IRC and Citi Foundation helped her turn her passion into a serious business. She attended business training and received a grant to purchase photography equipment. “It made a qualitative leap in my project,” she says about receiving the grant. “I used to rent the camera and pay a portion of the amount to the studio, whereas now, the equipment I work with is completely mine;  there isn't anyone sharing the project with me.”

I'm Hamida, a photographer. Today despite the challenges and circumstances, I managed to be a photographer.

Although her passion is food photography, Hamida takes portraits professionally and, in the past year, has had her photos featured in exhibitions, producing work on the themes of peace and displacement, pulling from her own emotions and experiences as a refugee. “When I came from Syria to Jordan, I experienced some things.  The picture imprinted in my memory was that I must convey this message to people to see how much people suffer when they migrate from place to place, from country to country.”  

Visit Hamida's Instagram page.

Hamida and her family’s journey from Syria to Jordan

 In 2014, when Hamida was 16 years old, her parents and three younger siblings were forced to leave their home in Syria and make the difficult journey to safety in Jordan. The journey took months and Hamida and her family were forced to live in difficult conditions, sometimes not even having the comfort of a tent for shelter. “We didn't have any belongings—even the belongings we hadwe had thrown away on the way, so we literally arrived with nothing.”

Hamida, 26, holds one of her framed photographs as she poses for a portrait.
“The idea I chose for this exhibition was about displacement, firstly because of the situations currently happening in Gaza, and secondly also as a refugee in Jordan I lived in these circumstances,” Hamida says. : “I felt I must convey this message for people to see how much people suffer when they migrate from place to place, from country to country.”
Photo: Dalia Khamissy for the IRC

“During that period, I felt that really nothing was giving me strength becauseI went through many things that were very difficult.” 

Starting life in a new country

“When I arrived in Amman, honestly, I had some difficulty accepting the new situation, firstly because we didn't have papers to move around in Amman, and the second reason was also fear.” 

As well as feeling concerned for her safety, as a young adult, Hamida worried about her future now that she was in a new country. “I was thinking, ‘How can I go back to study? How can I set goals again from scratch? How can I start over in a new country, a new life, new people, from someone who might start from zero and still doesn't know what they want?’” 

Hamida, 26, looks at the city of Aman.
“My hopes and ambitions for the future are to have a studio specialized in food photography,” says Hamida. “And also to enter the university and study a major I love.”
Photo: Dalia Khamissy for the IRC

Today, Hamida can reflect on how her experience has impacted her as a person. “These ten years that I have lived in Jordan were very different, they strengthened my character a lot. I discovered things about myself that perhaps I wouldn't have if I were still in Syria.” 

“I searched a lot for my goals. I searched a lot for the things I love, and challenged many circumstances, customs, traditions and many things to get to where I am now,” she says. “Today, despite the challenges and circumstances, I managed to become a photographer.”