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Loulou d'Aki
Make a Wish

Its a rainy November morning in Gaza and a truce has just been announced after 8 days of fighting. A young man stands in the rubbles of what is left of his home, destroyed in an air strike just an hour before the war ended. Behind him, a framed picture still hangs crooked on the wall. The boys name is Ahmed, he is 18 years old and the son of a fisherman. He wants to live in peace and go to college but we are in the Gaza strip and dreams have their limits here, you often have the feeling of being caught up in a game where you always turn out the looser.
On the other side, 95 kilometers and a wall away, is Jerusalem, the city many Gazawis dream of visiting but who most never will. This is a land of contradictions, a land of walls, a land of visible and invisible borders. From Omris Art school you can see the separation wall on a clear day. Omri, who got freed from the obligatory Israeli military service by pretending he was gay during the medical examinations, says that he dreams of feeling at home someplace someday, away from the religious and political tensions he has grown up with.
My name is Loulou dAki and MAKE A WISH is my very long term project, a photo essay looking at the hopes and dreams of youth, inspired by the fact that youth should be the age of infinite possibilities.
The project started out while living in Paris, triggered by a fascination with the fashionable youngsters I saw on the streets while cycling downtown every day. I continued by adding bits and pieces to it across Europe and North America before moving to Venice to work on another project. In Venice, I met two young religious boys from Jerusalem and I decided that it would be interesting to continue the project in Jerusalem, with the conflict as a background.
The original idea was the thought that youth is the age of infinite possibility because hopes and dreams are not yet conditioned by experience so you might actually believe in miracles.
As I continued the work across the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutions, I realized until which extent dreams and aspirations are actually conditioned by society. I began adding landscapes and landmarks to the portraits, aiming to give an idea of what the young people were living.
I find youngsters who are interesting to me for one reason or another. It can be because of what they do, what they believe in, where they live or simply what they appear to be. For each portrait I ask the person to write down his or her dream in my notebook.
Overall I would say that the overriding theme when it comes to this project and the dreams, is freedom in various forms. Abdallah riding his horse a few days after the war ended in Gaza, an impossibility a few days earlier
When I take pictures, the statement, written by the young person photographed, is very important for the final result and I think that Cyril, the son of an Iranian fashion designer in Tehran, pinned it down when he wrote: Well what is my dream? I am not really certain about it, although sometimes I would like to become a president, you know the king but a bit more different and more modern. Becoming president is way for me, to bring change, to help people, to be a leader, and also to know more (confidential secrets) and many more things. Unfortunately this is just a dream, but fortunately dreams do come true.

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