Photo of Maranie Rae's work by Kim Lopez.

Pittsburgers are currently flocking Downtown to the Three Rivers Arts Festival, which is known for celebrating local makers and providing a space for artisans and craftspeople to display their work. But that space–and the Allegheny Riverfront that flanks it–is still public, and therefore not insulated from those who seek to do harm.

This became a problem for local photographer Maranie Rae Staab, whose work has been displayed alongside the Festival at Riverlife’s ‘to be determined’ exhibit–an installation meant to highlight the potential of the underutilized space along the riverfront. Her photos, among others, were sprayed over with purple spray paint.

Among Staab’s many photos on display are the ones captured above, which are of Syrian refugees. A frequent traveler and photojournalist, Staab took these particular images at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, and in Lebanon.

She’s currently in Iraqi Kurdistan working with a medical team and a humanitarian aid group in Mosul, and photographing the people she meets along the way. She was informed of the vandalism to her work today, and took to her Facebook page to address the crime.

as some of you know i’ve had the privilege of some of my images from the middle east included in this year’s three rivers arts festival. the exhibition is a public art display, along the pittsburgh riverfront, and is entitled “displaced.” my hope for it was and is put names and faces to a growing number of people who have been forced from their homes. it is meant to humanize those that are too often dehumanized.

ive been in iraq since the exhibition opened but was notified today that someone had vandalized it, defacing the portraits of young, syrian children.

im sad and i am disappointed, but i cannot say that i am shocked. to me, this is the type of action that cowards and those with small minds and closed hearts take.

Of course, no one can know these images were defaced because of their subject matter, including Staab, who told me via text message from Iraq that “we do not know with certainty that the work was targeted because of its content.” It could have been a random act of vandalism.

In fact, Riverlife believes that’s likely. Stephan Bontrager, director of communications at Riverlife, told us additional artwork within the exhibit was vandalized, as was the mural that resides behind the exhibit, and a nearby bridge. He says a crew has already been dispatched to remove the spray paint, that this is a common problem in that area, and that they were prepared to deal with the maintenance.

Still, Staab would be happy to give the person who x’d out the faces of these kids a bit of context about who they are, and what they’ve been through.

if the person that did this happens to see this post please reach out; i would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about these kids, about the region that i have now spent a considerable amount of time in and the peoples that i have grown to care deeply about.

Ali Trachta

Ali Trachta joyfully returned home to Pittsburgh after a long stint at LA Weekly. Most recently she served as its online editor as well as digital strategist for its parent company, Voice Media Group, which owns seven alt-weekly newspapers. She lives in Stanton Heights with her husband and little boy.