Funded! This project was successfully funded on September 19, 2013.

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"By the Olive Trees" is a 64-page color newsprint publication consisting of stories from those affected by the Syrian civil war.

FUNDING UPDATE

We want to say a huge thank you to everybody who has supported the project or helped spread the word thus far. We are blown away at the overwhelming response, and we are humbled that so many people came alongside us to help make it happen. 

Now that we have reached our base goal, we want to share an expanded vision. We want to double the reach of this project by increasing our print run to 10,000 copies. We will need to raise $12,000 to do this, which will not only cover the extra copies, but will also leave money to cover much of the shipping costs for distribution. 

If we reach this new goal, we will to be asking each of you to help distribute the publication. We will send you extra copies (at no additional expense) to give out in your community. The goal is to help more people connect with those being affected by the fighting in Syria. 

We will be posting updates as we continue to work on design and layout, as well as any more articles that get posted. Thanks again! 

-Mike and Ben

The Project

The Syrian civil war, now in its 28th month with over 100,000 casualties, has forced nearly 2 million Syrians to flee their country. More than 500,000 of them have headed south to neighboring Jordan, a number that is expected to reach 1 million by year’s end.

They are fleeing devastating government bombardments, widespread rape, and forced military conscriptions from the regime, as well as increasing Islamization and brutally enforced Sharia law from factions of the Free Syrian Army.

We (Benjamin Rasmussen and Michael Friberg), wanted to document the experiences of some of these refugees living in Jordan. We are friends and editorial photographers working for publications including Bloomberg Businessweek, the New York Times Magazine, TIME, Outside, Men’s Journal, ESPN, and more. 

Rather than using a traditional photojournalistic approach, we wanted to take the visual language that we use while photographing editorial jobs domestically and apply it to some members of the Syrian refugee population in Jordan. With a generous film sponsorship from Kodak, we went to Jordan this summer. We took large and medium format cameras and audio recorders to meet and photograph individuals affected by this conflict and record their narratives. 

Zaatari refugee camp from above.
Zaatari refugee camp from above.

The Newspaper

Excerpts of the project have already been published by Businessweek and The New Republic, but in today’s shrinking print media landscape there is less and less space and budget to tell complicated stories. Despite this, we believe that this is a story that needs to be told in an expansive way, and that there remains an audience with the attention span and interest in global affairs to interact with it.

This Kickstarter is exploring an alternative way to reach a broad audience with complex and in-depth story telling, and we would like you to be a part of it.

We are producing a beautifully printed, color newsprint publication of this project that will feature the stories of over a dozen Syrian refugees told in their own words. The goal is to create an experience that will allow the viewer to get to know some of the people impacted by the Syrian civil war. We want to make this news “event” taking place thousands of miles away feel less remote, and give a face and voice to those impacted by it.

The publication will be newsprint so that we can economically print a large number and distribute them for free as widely as possible. We want this to be free because our goal is for the publication to reach people outside of our normal photo/book geek circles. 

We hope that readers find copies in a coffee shop or gas station, are given it by a friend or family member, or are even handed one by a stranger on the subway. The goal is for there to be no barrier between the audience and the information.

Up to this point, all of the costs for this project have come from our own pockets (with the exception of the donation of film from Kodak). Paying for flights, hotels, a fixer, and food wasn't cheap. We've been creative in raising money for the print publication through sales of the work to magazines, but we are still significantly short.

This is where you come in. We are trying to raise money to print as many copies of the publication as possible. If we reach our goal, to print 5,000, the cost is around $1 a copy after setup expenses. If we exceed our goal, then we can print even more copies and distribute them even more widely.

Zeidan Abdullah Zeidan, who lost his leg fighting with the Free Syrian Army, standing in Zaatari refugee camp.
Zeidan Abdullah Zeidan, who lost his leg fighting with the Free Syrian Army, standing in Zaatari refugee camp.

Design

We are very excited to announce that Dirk Barnett, creative director of The New Republic (formerly of Newsweek, Premiere, Popular Science, and more), will be designing the newspaper. Dirk and The New Republic have been very supportive of the project since it's inception, and we are very grateful for his guidance and support. 

Footage from the civil war plays on the Free Syrian Army station in a refugee's home in Zarqa, Jordan.
Footage from the civil war plays on the Free Syrian Army station in a refugee's home in Zarqa, Jordan.

Story Example

Abdul Rahman Mounir Al-Zalem

Getting to Jordan was dangerous and difficult. I hid in a hole for two days with no food, just water, and then I escaped. It was all walking, because there are no cars and no gas. I would find a house, go inside, get food and get out. There were no people in them. They were all hiding in the basement. I wouldn't walk on the streets, I would walk in the fields and dirt so that the government forces wouldn't see me.

We have no house now in Syria, because the government airplanes shelled it. There is no trace that it existed. We had a small orchard with 24 olive trees and five lemon trees and three grape vines. If Bashar goes away we would go to Syria, sit by the olive trees and we would sleep and eat and drink there.

I planted an olive tree here so we could feel like we were in Syria. Every week we say the next week we will return, we will go back to Syria. And now it has been two years. Maybe the same thing will happen to us like the Palestinians and we will wait for 60 years. Or maybe we will go back tomorrow, or maybe today.

Backer Print Options

Unsigned 8x10 inch prints

Option 1:

Abdul Rahman Mounir Al-Zalem by Michael Friberg

Option 2:

"Olive Tree" by Benjamin Rasmussen 

The olive tree Abdul planted.
The olive tree Abdul planted.

Unsigned 11x14 inch prints

Option 1:

"V for Victory" by Benjamin Rasmussen

Mohammad Ghazi Al Kaderi, 5 from Dara'a, Syria, give the peace in Zaatari refugee camp.
Mohammad Ghazi Al Kaderi, 5 from Dara'a, Syria, give the peace in Zaatari refugee camp.

Option 2:

"Returning to Syria" by Michael Friberg 

A boy waits for one of the daily buses that take people back to the Syrian border from Zaatari refugee camp.
A boy waits for one of the daily buses that take people back to the Syrian border from Zaatari refugee camp.

Options for 49 Piece 77x60 inch poster

Option 1:

"Zaatari at Dusk" by Benjamin Rasmussen

Kids run home at dusk in Zaatari refugee camp.
Kids run home at dusk in Zaatari refugee camp.

Option 2:

"Head First" by Michael Friberg

A man dives through an open window into a bus returning to Syria from Zaatari refugee camp.
A man dives through an open window into a bus returning to Syria from Zaatari refugee camp.

Limited Edition 24x30 inch print options:

Option 1:

"Amman at Dusk" by Benjamin Rasmussen

Amman, Jordan at dusk.
Amman, Jordan at dusk.

Option 2:

"Outskirts" by Michael Friberg

People walk along the outskirts of Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.
People walk along the outskirts of Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Limited Edition 40x50 inch print option:

"Shade" by Benjamin Rasmussen.

Two men rest under homemade shade while waiting for a bus to return to Syria.
Two men rest under homemade shade while waiting for a bus to return to Syria.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Any photographic project has inherent challenges, but luckily this project is already in the bag from that standpoint. We have scanned all the film, and we are already working through the print layout with Dirk Barnett, art director at The New Republic and one of the best in the business.

The biggest challenge with this project has been finding a way to drive costs down to make printing the newspaper as cheap as possible. And we want to print as many as possible. If we reach this Kickstarter goal, we will print 5,000 copies. But anything that we raise above the goal will allow us to print more, at a cost of around $1 per copy.

We will be working with Linco printing in NYC. While not the cheapest printer we have encountered, Linco has a great reputation for working with artists. We have seen many examples of their work and are comfortable knowing this is where the newspaper will be printed. We anticipate going to press sometime around mid- to late-September.

FAQ

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  • Pledge $25 or more
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    163 backers

    A copy of the 64-page newsprint publication, as well as your choice of one of two unsigned, open edition 8x10 inch prints from the project. In addition, you will be listed on the back page of the publication as a supporter of the project.

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    Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
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    73 backers

    A copy of the 64-page newsprint publication, a handwritten thank you note from Michael Friberg and Benjamin Rasmussen, and your choice of one of two unsigned, open edition 11x14 inch prints from the project. In addition, you will be listed on the back page of the publication as a supporter of the project.

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    13 backers

    Your choice of one of two DIY posters, which are 49-piece, 77x60 inch color digitally printed on 70lb paper, as well as a copy of the 64-page newsprint publication. In addition, you will be listed on the back page of the publication as a supporter of the project.

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    2 backers

    Receive 25 copies of the newspaper to distribute at an event of your choosing. If you live within 50 miles of Salt Lake City or Denver, either Michael Friberg or Benjamin Rasmussen will come to the event and talk about the project. If you don't live near us, we will Skype in. Be creative! This could be a great way to engage your community with the project. Invite us to your Bunko night, church group, high school class, etc.

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    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    A copy of the 64-page newsprint publication and a 24x30 inch archival pigment print of "Amman at Dusk" by Benjamin Rasmussen, in a limited edition of 5. In addition, you will be listed on the back page of the publication as a supporter of the project.

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    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    A copy of the 64-page newsprint publication and a 24x30 inch archival pigment print of "Outskirts" by Michael Friberg, in a limited edition of 5. In addition, you will be listed on the back page of the publication as a supporter of the project.

    Estimated delivery:
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    2 backers Limited (1 left of 3)

    Your name (or your company or publication's name) will be listed as a sponsor of the project alongside Kodak's in the beginning of the publication. You will also receive a 40x50 inch archival pigment print of "Shade" by Benjamin Rasmussen, in a limited edition of 3.

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Funding period

- (30 days)