Hana Caclar and Her Children

After retreating from the Iraqi Army, ISIS set the oil wells on fire, summoning an environmental and humanitarian disaster in the area. Many residents refused to be resettled into refugee camps, despite the danger of living next to the walls of flames and burning oil. The oil pits seeped into the village itself, making the houses beside caked in black soot and barely inhabitable. Hana and her children lived under ISIS from June 2014 until the city was recaptured by the Iraqi Army more than 2 years later.

The creation of this series reminded me of the power that images have to move our world for good, and how even independent photographers can still be part of a larger goal to help humanize even the most seemingly distant of conflicts. When this project was released in collaboration with Oxfam, the images were used for both a fundraising and political effort to extinguish the oil well fires in Qayarrah, Iraq. The fires were eventually extinguished in part due to media pressure, allowing Iraqi families to rebuild their communities after the retreat of ISIS.