Interviews, Portrait

Laura Pannack: What does Brexit mean for love? #2

Ellie and Lars. © Laura Pannack.

“No one in the UK has ever pulled a face when I tell them where I am from and I’ve never experienced homophobic abuse. I doubt that would be the case if I was in Bulgaria”

On 23 June 2016, the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union. The break-up has been far from harmonious and, almost two years since the referendum, the exact ramifications of Brexit remain unclear. 

Separation, a portrait series by Laura Pannack, explores this uncertainty on a human level. Commissioned by British Journal of Photography and created with Affinity Photo for iPad, the series captures the angst and myriad emotions experienced by London-based creative couples who, as a result of Brexit, have been forced to contemplate separation. Brexit has long garnered column inches for its political implications but what does it mean for love?

Of the couples that feature in Separation, one half of each is British and the other has moved to the UK from elsewhere in Europe. At least one works in London’s creative sector, a diverse and thriving industry that has long been a draw for Europeans moving to the capital. The subjects of Separation are real couples who, at the hands of Brexit, face an uncertain future. Emotion therefore exists at the core of Pannack’s portraits.

Over the course of one week, BJP is publishing photographs from the series alongside candid reflections from each of the couples. Read Monday’s installment here.

Celia and Chris 

Fashion student, risk manager

“Brexit means that the younger generation is having to accept the decision of the older majority”

Celia and Chris. © Laura Pannack.

Celia is Spanish and Chris is British. Having met on Tinder, they have been a couple for three years. Professionally they have little in common – Chris is a risk manager at a private bank and Celia studies Fashion at Central Saint Martins. A shared curiosity for the world, and desire to make the most out of life, however, makes them a perfect match. “Coming from a different culture and industry from my own, Celia had a unique way of thinking and positive outlook on life,” says Chris. “Her determination and ability to articulate her opinions meant that whenever we met, the conversation flowed and it seemed as though we were learning and developing in a way that I had not experienced before.”

Celia: I feel privileged to have come to the UK to study at Central Saint Martins. One of the aspects that makes CSM so special is its international atmosphere. It breeds creativity and this is the same reason why London’s creative industries are so exciting. Brexit will no doubt change this and one of the most important positives of the city will be lost. I am keen to work in the UK after I graduate, but I now fear that it will be much harder to secure a job. The possibility of studying an MA is also highly unlikely after Brexit, particularly if university fees for European students increase further.

Chris: Brexit means that the younger generation is having to accept the decision of the older majority. One of my main frustrations with Brexit is the illusion that democracy is fair. Everyone has a vote, but naturally a significant portion of the population is nearing, or in, retirement. The decisions being made about the future will not impact the older generation, yet they carry the most weight. I do not blame them for this, but my frustration grows when you see political campaigns promoting falsehoods, targeted to exploit their, perhaps, misplaced concerns.

Ellie and Lars

Animation designer, arts tutor

“No one in the UK has ever pulled a face when I tell them where I am from and I’ve never experienced homophobic abuse. I doubt that would be the case if I was in Bulgaria”

Ellie and Lars. © Laura Pannack.

Ellie is Bulgarian and Lars is British. The couple met on a summer’s day at a carnival in Brighton. “She was wearing a large hat and had lipstick on her teeth. At that moment I knew that she was the one,” says Lars. “We had such a good time – that day turned into a weekend, and then another weekend, then a month and so on, until I moved in with her in London,” says Ellie. “The city is dynamic and culturally diverse, and has so much to offer in terms of inspiration for creative people like us.”

Ellie: For the entirety of the 10 years that I have lived in the UK, I have been lucky to be surrounded by lovely people. No one has ever pulled a face when I told them where I was from and I’ve never experienced homophobic abuse. I doubt that would be the case if I was in Bulgaria. What upset me about the Brexit vote was the reality that not some, but over half of the population would rather not be part of the EU. 

Many jobs in the creative entertainment industry are contract-based, and not necessarily in the same country. A post-Brexit UK will make life harder for both European and British creatives who want to work on big productions. I now have to spend nearly £1,300 to get citizenship (fingers crossed it doesn’t fall through) mainly because Lars and I want to live and work in Barcelona. I don’t want to leave the UK to have my history erased and then find out that I can’t come back to the country which I’ve spent most of my adult life in.

Annika and Pete

Actuary (currently in training), account manager at a design agency 

“Our major concern is where to raise children. I can’t imagine having children in the UK when the country’s post-Brexit future is so uncertain”

Annika and Pete. © Laura Pannack.

Pete is British and Annika has citizenship in both America and Sweden. They met almost five years ago at a house party. After a three-year long distance relationship, Annika graduated from university in Sweden and moved to London. “It was the obvious choice,” says Annika. “With Pete’s job, London is one of the best cities to be in.” Being in a long-distance relationship for such a long time has given Annika and Pete’s relationship new meaning: “Everything we do together feels so special,” says Pete, “because we have gotten used to making the most of every minute we have together.”

Annika: Brexit raises a lot of questions about our future. The major concern is where to raise children. I can’t imagine having children in the UK when the country’s future is so uncertain. I also have US citizenship so that is another option, but America is no better off right now. Trump being elected President was devastating for me. I see a lot more hate in America than I have ever seen before and it is hard for me to imagine moving back there in its current state. The Brexit vote made me feel very unwelcome as a foreigner; as if people didn’t want me here and that the UK wants to close itself off from other cultures.

Pete: For all the uncertainty and negativity that the EU referendum has raised, I’ve looked for a positive and realised that it has actually brought Annika and I closer together. We talk more about our future, not just in terms of which city would work best for us, but which country and continent. We share a love of freedom of movement and if that felt compromised then we would have to make tough choices about where to settle long term. It is something that neither of us were expecting to think about after a four year long-distance relationship finally coming to an end. No matter the decision, I know we’ll make it together because, at the end of the day, why should 51 percent of the population come between us?

Over the course of the week, portraits from Separation will be published on British Journal of Photography. See the previous installment here.  

Credits. Photographer: Laura Pannack. Assistant: Jacob Schühle Lewis. Junior assistant: James Greenhalgh (winner of the Separation competition to shadow Pannack on-shoot). Editorial: Anya Lawrence. Set: Karina Valentim. Studio: Street Studios. Equipment: Direct Digital. Software: Affinity Photo for iPad.

Separation is a British Journal of Photography commission created with Affinity Photo for iPad, Apple’s App of the Year 2017Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.