Personal Best vol.6 | Christian Bobst

Personal Best – “The Twice Refugees of Shatila”

Commissioned work for HEKS, a Swiss relief organization

Equipment used:

XF18mmF2 R
XF35mmF2 R WR
XF10-24mmF4 R OIS
XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Awards received:

TV Spot:

About my Personal Best

In some cases, I get assignments which allow me to combine my experience in photojournalism and advertising. In 2017 I was commissioned by the Swiss NGO HEKS to photograph a photo report and to produce a 40-second TV commercial with the material.

I was sent to Shatila in Lebanon, a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Beirut, which is commemorating its 70th anniversary in 2019 and ranks as one of the oldest refugee camps in the world. The camp was established for a number of about 3’000 people after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War to accommodate the Palestinian refugees. Since the the Syrian civil war started, more than 110,000 Syrian-born Palestinians have fled Syria, becoming so called “twice refugees”. The numbers of refugees in Shatila went up from 10,000 in 2014 to an estimate of 24,000 people, who are now squeezed together on approximately one square kilometer. The camp allegedly has one of the highest urban population densities in the world and it bursts at the seams, a dark, cramped concrete labyrinth with high criminality rates.

This is my favorite commissioned story in my portfolio. It has been awarded at the IPA International Photo Awards in New York and the PX3 Paris Photo Prize in 2018.

In order to produce these pictures, I exclusively used the FUJIFILM X Series cameras and lenses. I rely on FUJIFILM X system whenever I am on professional assignments where I need to carry a lot of equipment, but don’t want to be hindered by a large and heavy photo bag.


X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - Pigeons fly over the roofs of the provisionally erected houses, which are now up to 10 stories high.

X-T2 & XF10-24mmF4 R OIS - A boy runs through one of the camps streets with its tangled water pipes and electricity cables.

X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - Mohammed Ahmad Ahmad, a Palestinian refugee who was fleeing to the camp from Syria, cleans the streets of the camp to to earn some money for his family.

X-T2 & XF10-24mmF4 R OIS - A tangle of water and power lines extends like a spider's web over the narrow alleys of the refugee camp.

X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - The hard struggle and disappointed hopes characterize the faces of many people in the camp.

X-T2 & XF35mmF2 R WR - The very limited space and the narrow alleys cannot keep the children of the camp from at least playing soccer together.

X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - A boy suffers from an eye infection. Many people in Shatila suffer from infections which are caused by humidity and very high mould concentrations at the refugee camp.

X-T2 & XF18mmF2 R - Hanadi Khalid Ristawi, her 4 children and her father live in a 20 square meters sized room. When the family had to flee from the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, the camps in Beirut were their closest option for shelter. Like most of the refugees from Syria, the family wants to leave Shatila, because the living conditions there are harsh and the damp walls in the room pose a serious health risk.

X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - Children of Syrian refugees playing in the streets of the refugee camp.

X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - The view from one of the high buildings in Shatila on the city of Beirut. The refugees are allowed to leave the camp, but not to work or get property anywhere else.

X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - A kid leans out of a window over one of the streets of the refugee camp.

X-T2 & XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR - On the roof of the highest buying in the camp a boy is breading pigeons. He comes to the roof almost every day to look after his birds.

Read more on “Personal Best”

Vol.1- Flemming Bo Jensen
Vol.2- Pieter D’Hoop
Vol.3- Santiago Escobar-Jarmillo
Vol.4- Stefan Finger
Vol.5- Xyza Cruz Bacani
Vol.6- Christian Bobst