Festival 2020


Nov 7 -
Dec 19 2020


The Art of Survival

The Art of Survival, a commission for international charity Save the Children, has been produced in collaboration with refugee communities, depicting what it’s really like to be a refugee child.


This series goes beyond the usual news reportage imagery of refugee crisis, bringing a fresh approach to humanitarian story telling. The elaborately staged scenes bear witness to the hopes, fears and challenges faced by Burundian children seeking refuge in Tanzania, and Syrian children who have fled to Lebanon. It explores past memories, present-day realities and dreams for the future.


There are over 3.5 million refugee children around the world out of school. Without an education, these children have no future. Internet search for children refugees generate thousands of similar looking images. I felt that repetitive broadcasting by popular media meant these stereotypes did not work anymore and that a different way of story telling was required. I wanted to humanise personal stories hoping people would take notice of the breadth and complexity of children seeking refuge. I was totally committed to taking every chance to put a human face to children refugees and to deliver a fresh and unique photography.


The idea was to show real children and tell their real stories, by involving the subjects, listening to them, creating a decor together with them, by staging their lives and their desires. Through participative and performative staged photography, I wanted to have real children role play themselves to tell stories in a unique visual way while upholding their dignity. This art project was going to provide a rare chance for the children refugees to express themselves and I wanted the resulting photos to be empowering representations of these children.


My aim was to turn this project into a refugee community art project so we ran participatory art and craft workshops with children and their familiesin Tanzania’s Nyarugusu refugee camp and Anjar informal settlement, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The communities helped to build the large decorative sets, co-creating visual representation of their stories, using mostly materials found in the camp. By using recycled humanitarian materials, I tried to turn symbols of loss and displacement into a canvass for children to express themselves in order to raise awareness for the plight of children refugees.

I wanted the overall artistic feel to be colourful, naïve and surreal to help de-dramatize a bit the stories so that the audience may look at them without apprehension despite the hardness of the message. Almost like a play or a fairy tale for adults, created by children.

Together we produced 8 images which I hope will help Save the Children achieve their goals of calling for a global commitment to ensure no refugee child should be out of school for more than one month.


Patrick Willocq

Born in 1969 in Strasbourg, France. Lives and works in Hong Kong, Paris and Kinshasa. Self-taught French photographer Patrick Willocq has lived and worked 34 years in diverse cities throughout his career, including Kinshasa, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Paris. In 2012, and following a trip back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (where he grew up), Patrick decides to devote himself entirely to photography (he was working for multinationals in Asia Pacific for over 20 years).

His artistic work is about documenting the world we live in through carefully composed performative images in collaboration with local communities, thereby offering a different image of the world, which go beyond images which media tend to focus on. In his several series in DR Congo, he takes his images far from the usual hackneyed and clichéd depiction of the country and bring a fresh interpretation of Africa. In his latest project "The Art of Survival", images depict the experiences, fears and hopes of refugee children through an innovative theatrical treatment, bringing a fresh approach to humanitarian story telling. He builds all his sets in the middle of the bush or camps, mostly with materials found locally, without Photoshop montage or collage, and chooses to involve the communities he works with, co-creating visual representation of their own stories. He uses all his personal life experiences to express his inner world, a world in which he persists in wanting to show the vitality of a happy humanity, but also a world where imagination transforms the harsh conditions of reality. All this to achieve the goal of his artistic journey: self-discovery.

Since 2012, his work has been nominated, finalist or winner of 12 prestigious international awards including SFR Paris Photo 2012, Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2014, Discovery Award Rencontres d'Arles 2014, Sony World Photo Awards 2016, Prix Coup de Coeur HSBC for Photography 2016.

His work continues to attract the attention of the jury of international festivals, while the international press continues to publish his work: CNN, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Paris Match, Stern…

Since 2014, Patrick is represented by galerie baudoin lebon in Paris and Vision Quest in Genoa with respective solo shows in 2015. Group exhibitions include Context Art Miami, AIPAD New York, Artefiera di Bologna, Joburg Art Fair, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Copenhagen, Tel Aviv Museum of Arts, La Bourse du Talent Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris Photo SFR.

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