Go Behind The Making Of The Yida Photography Exhibit

the story of how this powerful media project was made

The Yida Photography Exhibit wasn’t made overnight. It took thousands of travel miles, endless camera clicks, and the help of carpenters, designers, companies, and donors to make this powerful media project what it is. There were certainly countless hours of thought and hard labor poured into this project. This is the story from start to finish.

Background of Exhibit

Yida Refugee Camp sits just a few miles south of the international border that divides Sudan and South Sudan. This community is home to tens of thousands of people who have fled the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, where the country’s dictatorship has waged a genocidal war against the Nuba people since 2011. Official humanitarian and media access to the area has been banned by the dictatorship, but this has not stopped the most determined nonprofits and journalists from reaching the Nuba people.

The Yida Photography Exhibit examines the crisis in Sudan through the lives of those who have escaped. This immersive, story-driven experience takes you through life in the camp, educates you on what it is like to be a refugee fleeing out of a warzone, and provides tangible ways to get involved.

Capturing The Photos

Our media team spent several days in Yida Refugee Camp at the end of May and beginning of June in 2016. It took 32 hours of international travel to get from Memphis, TN to Juba, South Sudan, followed by a few days in Juba setting up our trip to Yida.

Our film and photo shoots took place extensively throughout the camp from sun up to sun down. The temperature regularly exceeded 100 degrees, causing cameras to overheat and forcing our team to frequently stop at the clean water points scattered throughout Yida.

Photo: OBS Fundraising Enthusiast Katie Barber takes a portrait in Yida Refugee Camp. May 27, 2016.

Over a period of several days, 4,535 photos were taken by the two photographers behind the exhibit: Katie Barber and Jacob Geyer. The emphasis was on who these people are and what their lives are like on a daily basis.

Both photographers, as well as other members of our team, suffered from heat exhaustion at various points on the trip.

Media was backed up daily by making 3 additional copies on portable 4TB hard drives. This ensured that not a single photo taken was lost and would play a major role in editing in the months ahead.

Photo: Blueprint for the exhibt.

Building The Story

From the beginning, we wanted this exhibit tell the story of Yida and the Nuba people living there. After reviewing all of the photos taken in the camp, we decided to pursue a themed setup that would place an emphasis on different aspects of life in Yida and historical events in the area. Theoretically, an attendee would be fully immersed into the exhibit and learning about different aspects of the crisis in Sudan, the Nuba people, and Yida Refugee Camp as they moved from section to section.

Sections were selected based on media available paired to the reality of life in Yida. They were then organized into a story format that allows attendees to focus easily on a single subject, person, or story one at a time.

Selecting The Photos

The 313 breathtaking images featured in this traveling exhibit were hand-selected out of the 4,535 photos taken in Yida Refugee Camp by Katie and Jake. It took several weeks to select each photo for each section. Some photos were selected for certain areas, and then moved around to another if it spoke to that section’s topic better.

Photo: A woman pauses near a clean water pump and laundry area in Yida Refugee Camp. This photo fit a few different sections of the exhibit well, but eventually ended up in the Hope By A Thread section. May 28, 2016.

Each photo was then edited, printed on foam board, and placed into a simple black frame to further draw attention to the vibrant colors and beauty of the Nuba people. Text art was also designed with introductory information for each section and our organization’s social media information for those who wanted to share their experience. All of the photos were then labelled on the lower back corner with which section each one goes into for easier setup and breakdown of the exhibit.

Each of these processes also took several weeks, but the attention to detail would be well worth it when the final product came together.

Designing The Displays

The next step was to build display pieces for the photos to hang on. This was especially challenging as we needed pieces that were easy to move, light-weight but sturdy, and “looked” like the refugee camp. Examining our photos, we discovered that we had the perfect design inspiration to base the display pieces off of:

Photo: The entire exhibit is designed off of this location in Yida Refugee Camp, which is similar to other areas of the camp as well. May 28, 2016.

Structures in Yida are made of a mix of locally-sourced materials and items brought in by outside aid agencies and traders, but throughout the camp one can consistently find barbed wire, unfinished tree limbs, and metal that are part of structures and community areas.

The solution was to use construction fencing with stained cyprus 2x4s bolted to the fronts of them. This involved lots of measuring, re-checking, and pre-drilling holes through wood and metal. Four pieces of barbless barbed wire (yes, that is actually the name of it) were stretched across each of the eighteen display pieces for the photos to hang on. Every wire had to be stretched and attached individually using vice grips and nails. Each display piece slides on to solid metal bases that ensure once they are setup they cannot be easily moved until they are completely taken down.

Next, scrubbed crepe myrtle branches were cut down to varying heights to be zip-tied to the cyprus 2x4s, which are stained to closely match the crepe myrtle. This turns each display piece into a “frame” for the photos hanging on them. Because they are zip-tied, they can easily be set up and cut down, which accommodates the traveling nature of the exhibit. More importantly, the branches look almost identical to the above photo that the exhibit is designed off of.

And finally, the three special sections of the exhibit that sit in the middle of some of the primary display areas had to be custom made to fit into the exhibit. This was done by making stained cyprus “cubes” that had the same wiring for hanging photos as the primary display pieces.

With only two types of display pieces and the option of double-stacking photos due to having four wires, the entire exhibit can quickly be setup to fit a variety of spaces of all shapes and sizes.

Introducing The Completed Exhibit

After months of hard work, the Yida Photography Exhibit had its first test showing at a local church in February of 2017. In just 3 short days, this powerful media project raised over $12,000 for our school in Yida Refugee Camp.

From March 13–17, 2017, we held private showings for potential hosts across the Greater Memphis area and have about a dozen more showings in the works. Here is a video and a few photos of the final product:


The people of Sudan are overcoming two of the greatest challenges facing humanity today: war and genocide. Operation Broken Silence is working to accelerate their ability to generate lasting change through storytelling, education, advocacy, and emergency relief programs. Here are a few different ways you can join us:

1. See The Yida Photography Exhibit At Good People | Good Beer 2017. Our annual beer tasting event that supports our life-changing programs in Sudan is back for its 5th year! Earlybird tickets are $35 until June 15, 2017 then the price goes up to $45. Last year we sold out with a waiting list, so go ahead and get your tickets now! LEARN MORE »

2. Host The Yida Photography Exhibit. This special exhibit that examines the crisis in Sudan through the eyes of refugees who have escaped is travelling around the Greater Memphis area the rest of the year. If you are interested in hosting the exhibit at your church, university, or organization, please reach out to us. CONTACT US »

3. Join The Endure Campaign. If you aren’t in the Memphis-area but still want to get involved, we encourage you to join the campaign supporting our school led by Nuba teachers in Yida Refugee Camp. LEARN MORE »

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