It’s a memory that will stay with photographers Anthony Dawton and Jim McFarlane for ever, having entered a refugee camp in Jordan just across from the Syrian border:

“One unbearably hot day in June 2013 we entered the Zaatari refugee camp.

“We would do so every day for the next week and a half. What we saw will remain with us for ever. It is a sad and desperate place,” Anthony Dawton remembers, “an awful place, sheltering fractured families, scarred individuals and most threatening, the bored and the insecure.

“There is a hope that can be seen in the faces of the children but if no one sees them and no one hears them then a terrible future is set to be born.”

Traumatised by what they saw, the photographic duo were determined to do something about the plight of those they met.

Which is why their photographs of the experience are now part of a project called ‘Hotel Zaatari’ conceived to raise funds for the refugee camp and part of the Contrasting Arabia exhibited alongside photographs by the esteemed photographer and explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003), at the Saïd Business School.

“The result of those nine days are the images you see around you,” he explains. “They tell of a vast camp (the largest of its kind), a city that although built with impermanent materials is becoming permanent. Yet, Home is across the border.

“The children and their families are innocent victims of a cruel and devastating civil war raging in their country.”

As for the exhibition title, Dawton explains: “It is just a ‘hotel’ they are staying at because it’s temporary, but hotels you can check out of. Refugee camps, its inhabitants fear, are something you never leave,” Dawton continues.

The photography in this exhibition is a documentary of the realities many of us see only on the news, but in essence the images are a story of the 21st century, telling a deeper universal truth.

Dawton and McFarlane hope that Hotel Zaatari can define the process in which art can bring understanding and change perceptions towards the innocent people affected by what is seemingly one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

Sharing the stage is Sir Wilfred Thesiger’s contrasting work. He lived among the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq between 1950 and 1958 and was attracted by the traditional life-style of the people, their reed buildings, and the unique environment of reeds and water.

Thesiger’s photographs are quite a contrast to the Zaatari photographs and work well with a film by Mais Salman and Zaid Baqaeen

These photographs by Dawton, McFarlane and Thesiger together expose the core of what it is to be human, and what it is to be humane. All are available for sale directly through the photographer Anthony Dawton with 40% of funds going directly to Save the Children’s work at the Zaatari camp.

Contrasting Arabia runs at the Said Business School, Oxford, until December 7. Open on Fridays from 10am-4pm

The school's art curator is conducting tours of the exhibition every Friday at 12.30pm - 1.15pm until December 7.