With every click of his camera, Kim Badawi captures the untold stories of the human experience.
Because of a series of tweets, his role as the artful observer was reversed, thrusting him into the media spotlight and unearthing all that is to be admired about the photojournalist.
Badawi was recently traveling from Brazil to Miami to be reunited with his family and friends for the holidays. Upon entering Miami International Airport, he was detained for 10 hours without being allowed to contact his partner who was awaiting his release to board another flight.
Confused and distraught, he was forced to justify his personal contacts, emails, photos and whatsapp messages dating back to 10 years ago. He articulated the officers lacked sensitivity and reason during the investigation.
TSA officers were asked numerous times by Badawi if he needed to contact a lawyer, but they insisted that he would not be with them much longer.
After the officers discovered he was of Arab decent, they began to probe Badawi, an American citizen, about his religious practices.
“Me and my partner have suffered nightmares of being in an airport after the whole ordeal,” Badawi told Rise News. “The next day I woke up hoping that none of the things that occurred had actually happened.”
Though Badawi was unlawfully detained in the United States, he has a long history of telling narratives of those searching for freedom through his photographs.
He stumbled into photojournalism while staying with his grandparents in Egypt where coincidentally the Tahrir uprising was gaining force.
Badawi was already a well-known international photographer at the time but had little experience in journalism. His phone started to ring with calls begging for photographs on the frontlines as Egyptians revolted for a new and just government
“During the revolution, the people, especially the younger generation, really felt like anything was possible,” Badawi said.
LOOK: The Egyptian revolution through the lens of Kim Badawi
By timing and chance, Badawi was catapulted into the world of photojournalism.
He jokes that his career has evolved through stories adventitiously unfolding once he arrives in a new country.
Recently Badawi has been developing a photography project focusing on Syrian refugees in Brazil.
The globetrotting photographer captures the sensitivity of each moment as the refugees enter and adapt to their new home. He describes the clash of two worlds as the refugees struggle with the relaxed and youthful country of Brazil that is in juxtaposition to the conservative and religious state of Syria.
Through his project, he also realized a troubling truth about the younger generation of Syria.
“They reminisce about places and people as if they were much older than they are,” Badawi said.
As Badawi tells it, for the refugees he has met, cafes, stores, and even homes that held sentimental meaning are now but distant memories of what was. Now they have found refuge in an unfamiliar country, left to pick of the pieces of their fragmented lives.
Badawi said that he understands that Syria’s past and the refugees themselves have been misrepresented in today’s media. He is hopeful that through his photography he can educate the masses through honest portrayals of what it looks and feels like to be a refugee.
Badawi may have found media attention through his unfortunate experience at the Miami airport but the real headlining story lies with how this photographer is impacting the perception of the Middle East.
Through outlets such as CNN, Le Monde, and The Wall Street Journal, Badawi has reintroduced viewers to the high intensity situations that flood the media through portraits of humans attempting to live normal lives amongst the chaos and conflict.