The media has held our hand through the current crisis in Syria and Iraq and provided for us some of the most ghastly images of conflict seen for a long time. Beheaders, the defiant and armed, cloaked in black, make for a stunning bad guys and our governments too feed on a beautifully dumbed-down narrative of evil vs good. In reality war more often produces heroes: people who risk their lives to help others. The medics, the ambulance drivers, those putting out fires, those plucking children from the rubble. Many of these people are unpaid, driven by compassion and love. Some keep secrets, hide the oppressed, and give money and possessions to the needy. In any conflict situation these rays of sunshine exist. Yet they rarely do in the media. The bad-guys monopolise the story.
I spent many hours searching for the heroes of what is happening in Iraq and Syria at the moment. I found very little – but one image that re-occurred was that of the Stranded Yazidis being rescued from the Sinjar mountain range by Kurdish peshmerga in August 2014.
I am reliant on the agendas of the news media and a handful of Iraqi friends to build my version of events. The rescue mission has been picked over by the sceptical and is loaded with politics. I am not going to go into whether these images are propaganda or not – however the fact remain it was THE ONLY image of bravery and resilience I could find – where I know in reality there must be many. This is why I chose to paint it, and why I constantly seek more humanitarian examples in my work. Please reply with positive images if you have them.