Columbia, Venezuela, Refugees, Catholic Relief Services

CRS' Best Photos of 2018

Photo by Nicolò Filippo Rosso for CRS

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Through The Lens of Our Photographers 2018 

Welcome to year three of “Through the Lens of Our Photographers,” the CRS Photos Department’s annual collection of the best photos of the year. We (CRS Photo Librarian Lauren Carroll and Photo Editor Philip Laubner) are thrilled to offer you photos that have a lasting impact and transcend their parts to represent something bigger, something universal, something that talks to a larger human truth.

Thank you for supporting our work and CRS.

Phil Laubner – CRS Photo Editor



Photographer: Oscar Leiva/Silverlight

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's refugees in Bidi Bidi in Uganda.


Lauren Carroll: "Despite the small confined space of the refugee shelter, the woman wears a cross around her neck, reminding herself and telling others that she still has hope and faith."

Phil: "CRS built this structure at the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in northwestern Uganda for South Sudanese refugee Paskalina Aware, 69, and her granddaughter Julia Asina, 3. Although her family is extremely grateful for their new, more secure shelter, I feel the photo itself speaks to the universal pain of being a refugee: Uganda is still not their true home."

Learn more about the refugee crisis in Uganda. 


View Oscar's work.
Follow Oscar on Instagram.



Photographer: Lisa Murray

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's climate change and agriculture in vietnam.


Phil: "The billowy puffs of smoke appear to mix with the clouds in this beautiful post-harvest clean up in Quang Nam province, Vietnam."
Lauren: "This one looks like a painting to me with the soft sunrise colors and hazy smoke. Due to the growing challenges that climate change presents, farmers in this area of Vietnam are receiving training from CRS on how to use leftover waste from their harvests to create organic compost and retain moisture in the soil. Climate change is affecting the entire world, especially the poor and vulnerable."

Find resources on climate change.


View Lisa's work.
Follow Lisa on Instagram.


Photographer: Nicoló Filippo Rosso

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's Venezuelan refugees in Colombia.


Lauren: "I love how the two girls in the front frame the girl in the center. The repeated triangle shapes in this “frame” create interesting visual layers."

Phil: "For refugees, life on the road is a dance. Without context, this image could be from anywhere in the US—an image of stability from an affluent suburb, perhaps, and not the dance of Venezuelan refugees in Columbia. Again and again in my job I’m impressed by the resilience of all people to adapt and create beauty in spite of hardship."

Hear more stories from Venezuelan refugees.


View Nicoló's work.
Follow Nicoló on Instagram.


Photographer: Philip Laubner

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's a refugee family in Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda.


Phil: "I met Annet and her sister, Gladys, at the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in April 2018, and I feel that this picture perfectly typifies the tale she told me of their trip from South Sudan. At the time, the 14-year-old, parentless Annet was carrying Gladys on her back when they were stopped by rebels. The men asked her to put Gladys down, but she knew from other travelers that rebels will ask this, and then kill the child and rape the mother. She bravely told the rebels: "You'll need to kill me where I stand before I put this child down." Fortunately, another rebel, probably impressed with her courage, stepped forward and said that they should let them go."

Follow Annet’s journey through CRS Rice Bowl this Lent. 

Follow Phil on Twitter.


Photographer: Nicoló Filippo Rosso

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's Venezuelan refugees in Colombia receiving aid.


Lauren: "This is such a powerful photo. It feels chaotic and anxious as these Venezuelan refugees wait in line for their turn to receive meals and medical aid in Columbia. The hand coming in from outside the frame on the left is in motion, like he is ushering people quickly to get through the line. Yet amidst this chaos, the woman in the center pauses to pray."

Phil: "I see his gesture—and the sideways glance of the man with the scar—as him holding them back, rather than ushering people through. A good image, like good art, can often be interpreted in more than one way. A good image also has nothing superfluous in it; every individual, every piece of the image seems to tell a story."   

Hear more stories from Venezuelan refugees.


View Nicoló's work.
Follow Nicoló on Instagram.


Photographer: Mohammed Hafiz

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's the tsunami in Indonesia.


Lauren: “This image is so surreal; you can’t help but pause to make sense of it. It was taken after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia this year, but it does not look like a typical post-disaster photo. The day is clear and beautiful; there is not much rubble on the shore; and the building is still in good condition—almost like it was intentional to place it in the middle of the water. It’s a bizarre contrast that your mind has a hard time reconciling."

Find out how you can donate to the tsunami relief.



Photographer: Rick D'Elia

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's an orphan child at an orphanage in Kenya.


Lauren: “This photo has everything: strong composition, lighting, and color use. The lighting in this image is such a critical element. It creates a geometric shape that defines the child and illuminates the peeling paint, dusty floors, and cracked tiles of this cold, cage-like environment. The fact that the child is anonymous allows the viewer to imagine their own child in these sorts of conditions." 

Phil: "I agree. I also love that it’s hopeful, as the child is walking into the light. This image was taken to be part of CRS’s Changing the Way We Care campaign."

Did you know that 80 to 90 percent of orphans have a living parent? Learn how you can help


View Rick's work.
Follow Rick on Instagram.



Photographer: Ivan Palma

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's the volcano eruption in Guatemala.


Phil: “ The sudden nature of emergencies can create the strangest visual combinations. Here’s a surreal scene after the Fuego Volcano in Guatemala. The man in the midst of the recovery and dust is dressed in business casual attire and appears to pose."

Find out how to help those affected by Volcán de Fuego.



Photographer: Ismail Ferdous

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.


Phil: “Sometimes it’s not what you show; it’s what you don’t show. If you show just enough, you can tell the whole story and paint a picture, while still leaving some mystery for the viewer’s imagination."

Lauren: "I agree. This image is beautiful in its simplicity. You don’t even need to see the faces to sense the mother’s love and devotion to her child. This mother has protected her child by fleeing violence and enduring a long and difficult journey to this refugee camp, and continues to protect him or her from even the rain." 

Here's how to donate to the nearly one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh


See more of Ismail's Work.


Sri Lanka

Photographer: Jeff Holt

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's Indian refugees in Sri Lanka.


Lauren: "It’s interesting how the mother and daughter’s profiles mimic each other, but their emotions are in stark contrast. The mother takes on the burden of worry and fear, while the daughter’s gaze out the window makes her seem almost oblivious to the situation. The lighting perfectly captures the genuine concern on the mother’s face through the grooves of the furrowed brow. It looks like she is absorbing all the anxiety to protect her daughter."

Phil: "And it makes sense. Devamalar is recounting a harrowing tale of her family being stranded on a sandbar between India and Sri Lanka, and you can read the story on her face. I’m a big fan of “stacked” profile portraits like this as they tend to reveal details—especially familial suggestions of age, resemblance, and temperament—often not as pronounced in head-on portraiture."

Sri Lanka is a CRS Rice Bowl featured country this Lent. Learn more here. 

United States

Photographer: Jeremy Cowart

This photo is part of CRS' best photos of 2018, it's a portrait that is part of CRS' refugee campaign Be Unafraid.


Phil: "Be Unafraid originated from the idea that our fears, although real, are often not based in fact. We realized that misinformation and fear were at the root of the anger and division surrounding the refugee debate. Our desire was for people from both sides to come together and express their fears about the issue. Our goal was to create a safe space for them to express those fears. And our hope was that in expressing the fears, that they’d be able to find common ground.

We conceived the idea, but to help us make it a reality, we hired renowned photographer Jeremy Cowart. During our pre-shoot brain-storming session, Jeremy suggested that we have participants answer questions about their fears and write the answers on a simple, hand-held paper frame, and then he’d photograph them. After that, Jeremy applied a beautiful tintype process to the images that he had developed himself. It was blessing for us to work with Jeremy on the project, to meet and hear stories from both sides of the debate, and to see people’s perceptions literally change in front of us."

Hear how this project changed the lives and perceptions of two participants, Maggie and Bynad.

View Jeremy's work.
View Jeremy's Instagram.