Starting Over in Dearborn: Photography by Salwan Georges Documenting the Lives and Struggles of Refugees

Image: An Iraqi boy helps his father grill buffalo fish, 2014. 

April 30 – Aug. 21, 2016
Second Floor Atrium

Born in war-torn Baghdad during the first Gulf War, Iraqi American photographer Salwan Georges knows about facing hardship and adversity. One of his earliest childhood memories was looking out of a window in his family’s house to a sight of bombs in the distance, thinking they were fireworks. At age eight, Georges and his family resettled in Syria to escape the political turmoil in Iraq and would eventually immigrate to metro Detroit in 2004.

This exhibition offers an in-depth look into the trials and tribulations faced by immigrants seeking to put down new roots while preserving their cultural identity. Through his personal experiences and life-changing circumstance, Georges aims to raise cultural awareness by documenting the struggles of Iraqi refugees in the Detroit area. His experiences of war and refugee life give him a distinct perspective on the lives of everyday people all around the globe.

Since 2006, more than 100,000 Iraqi refugees have settled in metro Detroit, specifically Dearborn and Sterling Heights. As nations around the world deal with influxes of refugees, Georges’ work helps viewers comprehend the human toll of global conflicts.

“As I photograph refugees, in every photo, I see myself and my family’s story,” says Georges, a staff photographer at Detroit Free Press. “When I was young, experiencing the same things they do, I didn’t have the tools to express my voice. But now I hope and wish that, with my photos, I can give a voice to refugees.”


Salwan Georges was born in Baghdad, Iraq and raised in Syria calling Metro Detroit his home since 2004. He is currently a staff photojournalist at the Detroit Free Press. His long-term project, Finding Freedom, documents the lives, worship and struggles of a people facing new challenges and opportunities, gaining access to their most intimate gatherings and ceremonies. Metro Detroit has been home to the largest Arab community outside the Middle East. Starting over in America has meant adapting to new surroundings while simultaneously trying to retain cultural customs and language. As the global refugee crisis worsens, in the U.S. acceptance of refugees has become controversial as the country tries to understand the complex myriad of conflicts in the Middle East. Georges’ work has also been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, the Telegraph (UK), The Intercept and Detroit Free Press.

  • April 30, 2016 - August 21, 2016