“In the shelter, 33 people have been living in a basement since the war began. Living means there are birthday balloons on the wall for the children. Living means the eldest daughter does what eldest daughters do and frantically tries to clean up although it's hard to keep things tidy when you’re living in a cold damp hole. Living means the boys turn the war into a game,” the photographer Natalie Keyssar says. “They greet us with balaclavas and toy rifles, popping up from underground to point out smoke from the missile interception in the sky just minutes before. They don’t flinch at the crack of automatic weapon fire that is so close that their food access has been dodgy. Safety is relative. It’s not here. It’s over there. The sounds have a texture. Each one has its own character.”
“I watch the Babushkas and they don’t flinch either so I don’t. One octogenarian writes a poem in purple coloured pencils about war, it’s not her first, she has things to tell the world about this. The little boys build tanks out of sculpy and place them in our hands with innocent smiles. Two of the shelter cats seem to like the noises far less than the black fluffy one on a leash. The older boys build drones at a feverish place. Absolutely not toys. Everyone gives what they are good at giving. The Babushkas clasp my hands so warmly and hug me often and we smile that smile of women who see each other and I feel my grandma in their palms.”
Natalie Keyssar is a documentary photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. She is interested in inequality, youth culture, and the personal effects of political turmoil and violence, primarily in the US and Latin America. She has a BFA in Painting and Illustration from The Pratt Institute.
Keyssar has contributed to publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Time, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, National Geographic, and California Sunday Magazine and been awarded by organisations including the Philip Jones Griffith Award. The Aaron Siskind Foundation, PDN 30, Magenta Flash Forward, and American Photography.