The trip Hossein Fatemi made to Somalia in 2011, on assignment for an Iranian organisation, marked a turning point in his career. The New York-based photojournalist had covered many serious situations, but what he saw in Mogadishu – “thousands of children dying in desert hospitals, without food or water, without anything” – is something, he says, that he will never forget.
Fatemi returned to east Africa the following year with a group of Iranian photographers to focus on the lives of the refugees fleeing not only the conflict but also the drought and the flooding. He shot only on his phone because it puts people at ease. “Most of my colleagues would not risk relying solely on their phones,” he says, “but it gave me more flexibility and lent a more natural feel to the images.”
In Nairobi’s Kibera neighbourhood, 6km from the city centre, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and bringing heavier rainfall. Here, he shot Kenyan and Somali families: toddlers holding hands in the shade; children stepping off the school bus; laundry drying overhead; and this band of friends, their dusty plastic sandals edging into a puddle of their own reflections.
“The poverty really shocked me, but the people I saw were happy, they were friendly, they were sharing.” Before this project, he says, he thought of himself as a photographer. Now, his quest is to discover how photography can help the world’s children.