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Image Issue: The Refugee

Tariq Tarey is motivated by a simple, dual mission: That refugees are an asset to America—not a liability. And that most Americans don’t know when they’re looking at one. In fact, he often experiences it himself. He’s encountered many Columbus citizens who see the sharp-dressed photographer and his J.Crew-esque style, not the man who sought [...]
614now Staff

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Tariq Tarey is motivated by a simple, dual mission: That refugees are an asset to America—not a liability. And that most Americans don’t know when they’re looking at one. In fact, he often experiences it himself.

He’s encountered many Columbus citizens who see the sharp-dressed photographer and his J.Crew-esque style, not the man who sought refuge in the States from his war-torn home country of Somalia, and suffered through refugee camps along the way. Which, leads to the third part of his mission:

We are just like you.

“It’s easy to hate things that you don’t know. And what I want to do is show these new guests—people like me, people who have come as refugees—as humans, and share their stories with everybody,” he explained. “It’s hard to hate somebody you know on a personal level, so I just want to create a bridge between the communities—the guests and the hosts.”

In these uncertain times of human migration, Tarey’s work as a visual ethnographer is the perfect lead for our Image Issue. Shot on large format film stock, it’s permanent, real, and moving, and showcases the innate, basic power of photography— the way it equalizes, emotionally, people from all corners of the Earth.

What is it that truly drives you to do what you do? It’s like Obama said: “In no other country on Earth is my story possible.” We want to be part of a society and be integrated and own businesses and go to schools, go to universities, be part of the middle class. It’s almost impossible in many places on earth but America makes it possible for many refugees. What I want to capture is that story; I want to share it with the other Americans and also keep the stories for future generations.

How much did your motivation change in the aftermath of Trump’s victory? This has been brewing for a long time. Race and equality in America … [it’s] not something new. Yes, there is a lot of noise and there are a lot of people out right now, saying no to Muslims, saying no to others … no to Mexicans and so forth. I like to focus on the positive side of America, America that welcomes, America that gives opportunities to the new Americans that come, America that is tolerant to religion and peaceful. That is the America that I like to focus on right now. My work continues and the conversation continues about the true contribution of refugees when they first arrive to the United States. It’s to focus on the good and to keep the conversation very civil.

Why shoot film, and why large format? In the end of 2001, I walked into a camera shop called Midwest Photo Exchange and at that time there was a young man working there from Somalia. A refugee who was a photographer—is a photographer—and he handed me my first roll of film and ever since, I’ve been shooting film. I feel comfortable with it; I have a process in place, a workflow … also the longevity of film. Most of the stuff that I shoot is for archival purposes because, obviously, they’re part of an American story and I want to keep that for future generations.

Also, it slows me down. When I have my subject sitting before my camera, I like to engage, I like to talk, I like to have sort of a dialogue, an understanding, a mutual respect and, digital, as wonderful as it is, it seems to be a quick-fix. You shoot and it’s not in ones and zeros—it’s emotion, it’s silver, it’s organic. It’s something that you have captured as an artist and it’s hard to do that in digital, I believe. I shoot digital as well for other projects, but when it comes to the stories that I want to capture for future generations, definitely film is my go-to.

What are the misconceptions about refugees that are living in Columbus and the United States as a whole? I think the biggest one is the security, or the vetting process. Many refugees, like myself, went through an extreme vetting process and what that really means is that you go through questions about your birthplace, the reason why you’re a refugee, and so forth and so on. First, you get interviewed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, when you register as a refugee and they go through the background. Then, once you get processed, if you qualify for a third country resettlement, you go to Australia, Canada, or the United States. If you are selected to go to the United States, you go through several interagency questions. Some of these things are years apart. You know, first year, second year, third year, and then obviously fingerprints and then many many background checks. There are so many things they ask you about who you really are, and they do the background checks so anybody can’t just come in.

Most Americans can’t differentiate between the refugees you see in Columbus and the Florida nightclub shooter and the San Bernadino Californian shooters. First of all, the nightclub shooter was American-born, so it’s hard to safeguard [from] that, and the Californian shooters I think those came through a student visa—they didn’t come through the refugee process. So the notion that refugees are high-risk, it’s extremely, extremely, rare and almost non-existent. That’s one huge misconception.

The second one is that the cost to the America taxpayer is a ton of money. As soon as refugees arrive they receive an allowance of roughly $2,000 that pretty much covers their life to start—mattress, dishes, that kind of stuff. And they get cash assistance, about $250-$280/month per person for eight months. And if you don’t speak the language and you haven’t been trained in the American workforce, finding a job in eight months is extremely difficult.

The third one, that refugees take jobs from Americans. That’s actually not true. In Columbus alone, according to the Community Research Partners’ study they published in 2015, Columbus Ohio has 873 businesses that were created by refugees. And that’s job creation—not taking jobs, they’ve created jobs. The refugee spending power, what they spend in the economy in Columbus Ohio is $35.9 million per year. So the notion that refugees actually are not an asset to our community, and they are a liability, is absolutely false, every study after study will tell you. The median household income [for refugees] in 2015 was $42,000/year, and for American-born, it would be $51,000—not far off if you look at it. It’s a really huge misconception. Columbus, Ohio is a model of what refugees can do for a community—we build a community. The Northland Mall, as you recall about 15-20 years ago, was a very rough neighborhood and now that area neighborhoods they clean, they revitalise the neighborhood and it’s extremely important for the public to know that.

Now that everyone has a camera phone in their pocket, why is professional/traditional photography still important? I think democratization of art is something that is amazing, and I’m a true believer of giving everyone the same tool, in order for us to capture our own history and our own path. The difference is, instead of just photographing your family, your children, which is very important, my goal is to save the history of America today, so future generations, can access it in a very professional and intentional way. So, when I photograph a subject they usually are interviewed, and images are scanned and catalogued and saved. All those things in the future will give us a way of looking back and seeing the Bhutanese Nepali first generation, like the Irish who came here last turn of the century, or Italians, or other immigrants. So I think there’s a slight difference, although the tools might be the same or similar, the intentions are much deeper. It’s a way of saving history for all to access in the future.

Tarey is an award-winning documentarian, honored by the Columbus Museum of Art and the Ohio Arts Council, among many. This spring he will be launching a show at the Ohio Historical Center on the Bhutanese-Nepali people of Columbus. For more, visit tariqtarey.com.

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Community

Sells Brothers Circus House fails to sell, so now is your chance!

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The Sells Brothers Circus House, located at 755 Dennison Ave. near Goodale Park. (Photo by Julian Foglietti)

Need a COVID-19 distraction project and have a cool $1 million on your hands? If so, do we have the opportunity for you!

Originally built in 1895 by Peter Sells, one of the founders of Sells circus, the three-story house features 12 rooms–including five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and four half-baths–a detached two-car garage, and an in-ground pool. It sure would be nice to be a pool owner in 2020, right?

The historic Sells Brothers Circus House, located on the edge of Goodale Park at 755 Dennison Ave., is scheduled to hit the auction block again on WednesdayonWednesday, July 22 at noon because a minimum bid was not reached this past Wednesday. However, the second auction will take place, regardless of a minimum bid limit. 

Weston Wolfe, CEO of Wolfe Insurance Group, was the last person to purchase the mansion in 2016 for $1.55 million as a way to boost his insurance business. While this particular gambit did not work out for Wolfe, the foreclosure auction does create an opportunity for another to grab this historic Columbus landmark for a relative steal. The auditor value of the property is over $2 million, likely below even the current market value.

An opening bid was set at $933,334. 

You can check the bidding status for the Sells Brothers Circus House here.

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Sports

Columbus’s John Tortorella Coach of the Year finalist

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Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella / photo by Lori Schmidt

The NHL has announced that Columbus Blue Jackets head man John Tortorella is a finalist for the Jack Adams Coach of the Year Award. If he beats out Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins and Alain Vigneault of the Philadelphia Flyers, it will be the third time Tortorella has taken home the honor. 

He’s been a finalist for the award four times.

Not many seasons have been like this one, though. 

Before COVID-19 interrupted the Blue Jackets season, Columbus went 33-22-15 despite losing 419 man games to injury. 

Among those missing significant time for the Blue Jackets: last year’s leading goal scorer (Cam Atkinson), the team’s All-Star defenseman (Seth Jones), and All-Star goaltender (Joonas Korpisalo). 

Even as players fell to injury, the team rose to ninth place in the Eastern Conference, which qualified them for the modified postseason, which is scheduled for next month.

Columbus will face Toronto in Toronto for a best-of-five Stanley Cup Playoff qualifying round, the dates for the first games of which are set.

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Prior to that, Columbus will face Boston July 30 at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game. 

It won’t be long after that, Tortorella will learn if he is the NHL’s coach of the year. The winners of this year’s NHL honors will be revealed during the Conference Finals.

Hear captain Nick Foligno's thoughts on the Stanley Cup Playoffs below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6OyEsL0h68
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Ohio high school fall sports are on…for now

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Interim Executive Director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Bob Goldring today announced that, as of now, fall sports are going ahead as scheduled. The decision as to whether to cancel play over COVID-19 concerns will be left up to individual schools. 

Goldring added that this could easily change. He talked about the fact that the governor might make a ruling that affects the ability of athletes, particularly those in contact sports, to play. 

There has been some discussion of pushing back the start date of sports in which the most contact occurs, particularly after This Week Sports reported an unknown number of local high school football coaches had suggested moving football to the spring, while having baseball staged in the fall.

Goldring did admit they have been looking at options and said they would be naive not to do so, especially because 80 percent of their revenue comes from ticket sales. Without games being played, tough decisions will certainly have to be made. 

 “The fiscal part of things is very much on my radar,” Goldring said. 

As to whether fans would actually be able to buy tickets and attend games if they do go ahead? Goldring said that, too, is ultimately a local matter. 

OHSAA may cut the minimum number of games a football team is required to play to qualify for the playoffs to account for the possibility of only some games being canceled. 

The board of directors is also still pondering the question of whether athletes can take the field if they are relying on virtual learning and aren’t allowed into the classroom. 

Right now, though, they are proceeding as if the fall season will kick off Aug. 1.

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