Unleash your best: fundraiser for Rohingya refugees

Boating in Shan territory, Myanmar.| Photo by Marco Francesco Lilliu.

The first photography exhibition of Marco Francesco Lilliu was unveiled April 5 in the cultural playground of Commercial Drive at The Drive Coffee Bar and runs the rest of the month.

Lilliu, a family and business lawyer, is a Vancouver-based photographer showcasing his work after long time encouragement from friends and admirers. Lilliu’s donation of the exhibit’s profits to charity has sparked further public interest in his project.

The exhibition focuses on the photographer’s own experience of Cambodia and Myanmar. All funds will support Rohingya refugees, who face the daily pain of living in crowded camps after fleeing an ethnic cleansing campaign last year.

Lens focuses on refugees

Marco Francesco Lilliu, lawyer and photographer.| Photo by Marco Francesco Lilliu

In less than six months, over 670,000 Rohingya (an ethnic and religious Muslim minority) fled the brutality of Myanmar’s military and found themselves sheltering in neighbouring Bangladesh.

The crisis has been highlighted by the United Nations as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ and reports that 100,000 refugees are in danger of landslides, floods and disease as the monsoon and cyclone season approaches.

The situation motivated Lilliu to propose an exhibition after becoming aware of the situation during his travels across Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). As a photographer, he documented his journey from multiple trips to the area, ranging from photos of the bustling streets of Phnom Penh to the rebel-run lands on the border with China.

“While the photos I’m exhibiting are curated from five trips to Myanmar and Cambodia over the past few years, I’m excited that the proceeds are going to help people in need affected by this tragedy,” he says.

Juggling work and passion

Lilliu believes that travel is a fantastic way to explore the world and helps him to engage with his future projects. He’s currently planning to go to Cox Bazar in Bangladesh where a majority of Rohingya refugees are located, across from the border with Myanmar, Erbil (Arbil) which is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan to explore the daily life experiences of locals and later to visit Nepal for a hiking and photography expedition.

When asked how this is possible with a full time job, Lilliu smiles.

“I take a couple weeks off work. I do work on the flight to my destinations,” he says. “I work on the plane, distraction free, and usually travel for 2–3 weeks as work doesn’t allow for long trips.”

During his travels, Lilliu spends time exploring and taking shots; and when on location, he meets people in the legal world and networks.

In terms of his artwork, he doesn’t rely on Photoshop but uses such programs for small edits in terms of sizing.

Lilliu recommends finding a passion and driving it forward.

“Just do it. I came up with an idea and then drove it forward,” he says. “When you have a side project, you need to focus, set hours to spend reading and learning about the topic.”

The exhibition offers a vast array of photographs, which Lilliu says are “affordable for people.” The money raised by the project will go to BRAC, an international charity with operations in 12 countries and is focused on ending extreme poverty.

For more information, please visit: www.instagram.com/marcofrancesco

Hei Teak Na Festival, Cambodia.| Photo by Marco Francesco Lilliu