Andy Spyra – Exodus

Andy Spyra



Christianity is on the edge of extinction in its birthplace, the Middle East.
Escaping sectarian violence, kidnappings, religious fatwas, economic hardship and severe persecution, the oldest Christian communities in the world are leaving the region.
Nowadays there are more Iraqi, Turkish and Palestinian Christians living in the Diaspora in Europe, the US or South America than in their native countries, while the current events in Egypt and Syria indicate a similar fate for its Christian population.

With the current speed of this Christian Exodus continuing, out of 12 million Christians in the middle East only 6 million will be left in the year 2020. It’s a real probability that within one generation Christianity, as a live religion and culture, will have vanished from the Middle East. I want to document this vanishing people and culture and record a historic process with severe political, economic and cultural consequences for the Middle East.



Christians have always been part of the intellectual and economic elite of Middle Eastern societies and their migration leads to a brain-drain, sided with the withdrew of financial assets and, equally important, cultural and intellectual force. This lack of resources will only accelerate the problems Middle East as a whole is facing and fuel the vicious circle of poverty, ill-education and extremist violence in the Region.

Working on the project since early 2011, I have repeatedly been to Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Gaza and Palestine. During this time I established a network of different NGOs, local churches and individuals that have helped me setting up contacts and logistics needed for this project.
To complete the project, thus to further depict the complexity of the phenomenon and to deepen its understanding, I will need to visit the Christian communities in the remaining countries of the Levant: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria.




Andy Spyra, born 1984 in Germany, is a freelance photographer currently based in Germany. He worked one year as a staff photographer for the local newspaper in his hometown before he became a freelance photographer. He’s working on assignments and personal longtermprojects in the Balkans and more recently in the middle East.

His Projects include a documentation of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir as well a four year long visual engagement with the aftermath of the genocide in Bosnia. Since 2011 he’s been working on a longtermproject about the christian exodus from the Middle East.


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Andy Spyra



10 Responses to “Andy Spyra – Exodus”

  • Love your project. Greats images. What are you shooting?

  • I have often thought that if I pay a visit back in time to just one place at one time, it would be Palestine during the time Jesus was walking around with his disciples, gathering crowds, delivering sermons, healing the sick, raising the dead and turning water into wine. I would just like to see this man whose short life had so huge an impact on this world and my own life and that of just everybody around me, of all races, mostly indigenous to North America and the Arctic. Maybe if I could follow Him around for awhile and shoot a good photo essay, I could better understand it all.

    I can’t do that, but Andy Spyra is taking an interesting step in the direction of that impossible goal. I am struck by how dark and grim his pictures look – almost as if he had gone not to the Mideast and the Holy Land but to Medieval Europe.

  • Congratulations Andy for having such an important story to work on and for making the Burn shortlist. I like this essay. For me, personally, just me, I would have liked to have seen a little less post processing i.e. less contrast and less vignette. It’s interesting that you don’t include captions: after seeing your considered and informative intro to this essay I would imagine that you could provide good, informative captions. I love photo 18 (the hands and the key). My edit would be 2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, and 20 – most of the essay. Photograph 19 really needs a caption (what’s going on there?) and a little straightening (I know, it’s the vogue).

    I hope you have the opportunity to continue with this work, Andy. If you can interview some of your subjects and get a first-hand account of what it is like to live as a Christian in the Middle East it would greatly enhance the understanding of your audience.
    Thanks Andy.


  • This is powerful work, Andy.

    Image 12 says it all for me.

    Look forward to seeing it evolve.


  • excellent work!

  • Nice mood in these images consistent with Spyro’s previous essay.
    BTW the EPF short list isn’t really that short is it?

  • PAUL

    we had about 1000 entries for the EPF…i think we took it down to 100 or so for the first cut, and then the “short list” i think this year was around 30 essays….

  • Easily one of the best essays I’ve seen on Burn in the last month or two. I agree with Michael in that image 12 is probably one of the most thought provoking in the batch.


    Yeah, looks like medieval images or renaissance paintings in B&W.
    I see a very deep engagement of the photographer. To the core of the action.
    The only way that something can be good enough…
    Andy Spyra is the new Paolo Pellegrin!!

    Have a nice Week end everyone. P.

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