© Loulou d'Aki

They call us dreamers but we are the ones who don’t sleep
Loulou d’Aki

2010-2016 — Middle East

About this series

It’s 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 boy’s 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 Gazawi’s 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 Omri’s 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.

Two men pass by the remains of what used to be the National Democratic Party’s landmark, torched on January 28th, 2011 during the escalations that came to topple Hosni Mubarak. © Loulou d'Aki

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 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 realised until which extent dreams and aspirations are actually conditioned by society. II 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.

Dorna. Student at the academy of art, poses for a portrait in her studio. She doesn’t feel free to express herself in Iran and studies german so that she can eventually continue her life in Berlin. When asked about her future dreams and aspirations, she says: “I want to be professional in all ways and all jobs. I want to conclude all I do perfectly. In this way I can make my choices and not leave anything undone. Time is passing and each moment I live is a fight to be in the present. To work in an every day routine, to do my best and to understand the present in order to live fully, peacefully with nature.” (Tehran, Iran) © Loulou d'Aki
Early morning view on an empty space in Gaza city, still burning after hit in an Israeli air strike. Most airstrikes happen just before dawn and, come sunrise, people step outside to look at the damage done. © Loulou d'Aki
Maryam in her bedroom, a student of illustration at the Academy of Art in Tehran.When asked about her future dreams and aspirations she says: “ I do not have many wishes because I got everything I wanted, but many little wishes do exist...my last wish, is death. I came to this egoistic world where everybody think about themselves…I hope that when I die, I shall find the world that I was always looking for.” © Loulou d'Aki
Abdallah rides his horse at dusk, a few days after a truce was announced and Operation pillar of Defense ended. Earlier in the week, riding on the beach would have been impossible due to the war. Abdallah works with his brother, together they perform on horseback in weddings and parties across, just like their father used to do. When asked about his future dreams and aspirations he says: To stay with my horse all the time, all my life. © Loulou d'Aki
Passengers, most of whom are refugees, disembark a ferry coming from Lesvos at arrival in Pireus port of Athens at dawn. © Loulou d'Aki
Afghan boys wait next to Tovarnik railway station a few days after the Hungarian border crossing closed and thousands of refugees crossed the Serbian border into Croatia instead, on the look for a new route towards Austria and Germany. © Loulou d'Aki
Bahman Nasirifar is a metal guitarist without a band and a spiritual Totec believer. “ I wish and I hope someday that people will forget everything except love and peace to nature and our kind.” © Loulou d'Aki
Palestinians girls and boys attend a rare cultural evening event in the old city muslims quarters (East Jerusalem, Palestinian territories) © Loulou d'Aki
An Israeli combat soldier stands alone in the rain during a combat training. Golan heights, Israel. © Loulou d'Aki
Mohammed in drenched clothes, poses for a portrait after disembarking on Lesvos island. He fled the war in Syria and says he will continue towards Germany where he hopes to find a good life and treatment for his diabetes. © Loulou d'Aki
Maraam Homed, 21 is very active on Twitter; she sees it as a way to communicate to the world what is going on in the Gaza strip. She is the only Gazan to Tweet in french and recently visited Paris on a conference trip. Maraam Homed has a dream: “ I visited the Eiffel tower and it is marvelous but my biggest dream is to visit Jerusalem and Al Aqsa.” © Loulou d'Aki
Amin sits by the harbour in Mytillini where he and his friends, all lonely minors from Afghanistan, wait to get a ticket for the next ferry to Athens. These days a great number of refugees arrive on the island on a daily basis and the wait to continue onto the mainland is long.When asked about his future dreams and aspirations he says:’’ I left my home in Afghanistan where the Talibans make life so hard. When I come to Europe my dream is to become a football player and join Real Madrid.’’ © Loulou d'Aki
© Loulou d'Aki
A poster of Yasser Arafat inside the print section of Industrial Islamic Orphanage School in the Old City Muslim quarter of Jerusalem. © Loulou d'Aki
Nachman is the second son of an Irish catholic convert father and a Jewish orthodox mother. He is an excellent drummer, plays everything from rock to jazz and klezmer. Most of the time, however, he plays hassidic music in religious weddings-to make a living. The Gemara, the part of the Talmud that comprises rabbinical analysis and commentary on the Mishna, says that one sometimes has to do work one does not love if it helps one to earn the daily bread.When asked about his dreams and future aspirations, Nachman says: “ I want to become a somebody.” © Loulou d'Aki
Dana Grace Windsor is a british-israeli student at Bezalel Academy of art in Jerusalem. She is not happy in Jerusalem and plans to leave as soon as she graduates. When asked about her future dreams and aspirations, she says: “To change the world and inspire about her future dreams and aspirations with my animations.’’ (Jerusalem, Israel) © Loulou d'Aki
Ahmed, an 18-year old fisherman stands in the rubbles of what used to be his home, hit in an Israeli airstrike a few hours before the truce between Israel and Hamas after the 8-day operation Pillar of Defense, was announced. When asked about his future dreams and aspirations he says: “To live in peace and go to college”. © Loulou d'Aki
View on a space hit in an israeli air strike during 8-day operation pillar of defense. (Gaza Strip, Palestinian territories) © Loulou d'Aki
Men are seen after midday prayers at a mosque in the center of Sana’a, Yemen © Loulou d'Aki
Hervé stops in the middle of the railway as he arrives at the Greek/Macedonian border. When asked about his future dreams and aspirations he says: “First I look, then I go. I’m an adventurer on my way to Switzerland to see what awaits me over there.’’ (Idomeni, Greece) © Loulou d'Aki
© Loulou d'Aki
Usama poses for a picture after an evening training drill. He is a member of the Nasser brigades, one of various Palestinian militant organisations which operates in the Gaza strip. When asked about his future dreams and aspirations he says: “ That all my land comes back to the Palestinian people. And to go to Jerusalem. I want it so bad”. Gaza strip, Palestinian territories, November 2012. © Loulou d'Aki
View over a mosque at dusk in the Sana’a Old City, Yemen. © Loulou d'Aki
Farhad poses for a portrait in the room he shares with two other Afghan men who, like him, work illegally in the booming Tehrani construction business. Farhad paid a smuggler to take him from Afghanistan, via Pakistan and across the border to Iran and he will go back the same way he came after a few months or a year. When When asked about his dreams and future aspirations he answers: “ I saw you with my lips of heart and fire coming to my body and if I hear that you are in trouble, something bad will happen to your enemies.” © Loulou d'Aki
Fatoom comes to skate at fun city in Hedda every day. She is a university student and says that she wants to become a lawyer. (Sana’a, Yemen) © Loulou d'Aki

Photographer: Loulou d’Aki
Nationality: Swedish
Based in: Athens, Greece
Website: dakiloulou.com
Instagram: @dakiloulou

Loulou d’Aki is a Swedish photographer, born and raised on the southern seaside. Alongside commissioned work, she focuses on long term projects which turn into exhibitions and books. 

Her clients include Le Monde, M. le Magazine du Monde, New York Times, National Geographic, Bloomberg Businessweek, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, TOPIC, D. la Repubblica, Internazionale, La Repubblica, TIME,  Dagens Nyheter, UNICEF…

Lou was a singer before she became a photographer. She speaks Swedish, English, Italian, French and gets by in German and Hebrew. Middle Eastern based from 2010 – 2015,  Loulou d’Aki is currently based in Athens, Greece and works all around the world.