Lost But Not Forgotten

Design Photography Book That Shares Intimate Images And Stories From The Refugee Crisis

“Media and politics are communicating about [the refugees] always as a crowd without a human factor. We want to give those people their faces back,” says graphic designer Maximilian Schnürer, who started a book and video project called Lost. “We wanted to give impressions of being a refugee to people in Europe and to tell the stories of refugees in strong pictures and stories.”


The refugee crisis caused by the turmoil and unrest in the Middle-East has garnered support and sympathy from people across Europe. Activists, artists and journalists have been instrumental in helping to shape, influence and change attitudes towards those whose lives are most at stake in the journey to safety and security. In particular, artists and journalists who have felt obliged to respond to the crisis have been drawn to showing the humanity of the refugees, in an often bloated media-storm that generalises their harrowing experiences.


Born in Southern Germany in the early 90s, Maximilian always had a creative streak in him. He studied Graphic Design and Advertising at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts, and during this time he honed his skills as a designer. He decided to apply his skills for the sake of communicating stories from people entrenched within some of the worst displacement the world has ever seen. Lost became that tour-de-force, which he began with his friends in the summer of 2015. In doing so, the project takes on the mainstream media image at full force.

It is said that when you photograph people in black and white, you photography their souls. With stunning, emotional photography, the subjects here are often captured smiling, resilient and proud. The strength of the refugees is communicated in the candid beauty of the images. And, contrary to its title, Lost also leaves a wide space for hope.


We caught up with Maximilian to find out more:

The Plus: Tell us more about how the Lost project got started.
Maximilian Schnürer:
Me and some friends (journalists and photographers) decided to bring some assistance in the European refugee crisis. So it was something about Design Thinking. We established Lost and wrote a book filled with the stories of refugees we met on a journey from Germany to the Greek island of Lesbos. With the net income we are financing integration programs for refugees in Austria. Franziska Tschinderle wrote the book. Martin Valentin Fuchs (martinvalentinfuchs.com) and François Weinert (francois-weinert.com) took the photos, Simon Hellmayr translated the portraits into English and I made the design of Lost and the book. We all made some trips to refugee camps or to hotspots in Europe but Martin and Franziska did the longest trip to Lesbos.


TP: Who were featured in the photography book? Tell us something about the refugees you followed.
We met a lot of people on our trips. One, of them, Sahir, is a refugee who died on the journey from Turkey to Greece. Franziska and Martin attended the funeral of Sahir and his family. They never met him. We also went to refugee camps in Austria and Germany. All the portraits of the book were shot in camps.


TP: What troubles did you face in documenting the refugees’ journey?
There was a problem with the asylum. Some of the refugees said, they didn’t want to see their face on the internet or in the book because of their pending application for asylum in certain countries.


TP: What kind of responses have you got from audiences so far?
Most of the people like the project. We want it to speak to all people. To help refugees with integration programs is just as important as to take fear and prejudices away from the natives.


TP: What equipment/cameras did you use?
Martin and François are using Canon cameras. Martin is using a 5D III and François is using a 6D and a 5D II. In our opinion the equipment does not matter. It’s about observation. A good photo can also be taken by a cheap camera. A good shot depends on the decisions taken by the artist.


TP: Are there any unforgettable memories from this experience that you can tell us?
I think the whole project is a great experience for us. We get to know so many people and stories and the feeling you get when you help other people is a very good one.


TP: What’s next for you?
We want Lost to continue. There are a view exhibitions, readings and school workshops left but we also want to keep the journalistic and artistic work.