“Coming back to photojournalism after a couple years of academic hiatus, I wanted to invest my time in projects that could affect change. Simply telling a story in an editorial doesn’t accomplish that,” says Anastasia Taylor-Lind about her determination to cover the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar for Human Rights Watch. The organisation’s mandate is to gather evidence of crimes against humanity and share those records with governments, international agencies and the public. Doing so means relying on collaborations between a diverse group of professionals, including visual storytellers.
“The exhibition just becomes this transition point. There will be new artwork created by the exhibition. I think that’s exciting: it means it becomes alive. These often tragic stories will continue living in other forms, whether through painting or through music, so it’s about making the exhibition a place of life and a celebration of that life,” says Giles Duley, the photographer who has spent months travelling Europe and the Middle East to document the refugee crisis with UNHCR. Taking images from his photobook, I Can Only Tell You What I See, the display will feature artists in residence, a soundscape from Massive Attack and will host an evening supper so as visitors can sit and discuss the work and the wider problems surrounding the refugee crisis.
“I meet people with more empathy and more care towards one another in war situations or in conflict around the world than I have ever experienced in Europe. People want to share the little they have with me because I have talked to them and shown an interest in them,” says Jan Grarup. His work has taken him to the sites of the worst conflicts – from obvious examples such as Iraq and Iran, to forgotten areas like the Central African Republic. Each place he visits, he stays to learn about the culture and customs of the people before taking their photographs. In these places of despair and destruction, Grarup often finds hope and resilience. But the Western world needs to be more active and share the responsibility to help these regions return to a peaceful existence.
Long before the public sat up and took notice of the staggering number of refugees risking everything to make their way to Europe, Alessandro Penso had made migration to the continent the focus of his work. Since 2009 he has been documenting the conditions of refugees who have attempted to cross borders in search of safety and the hope of a better future for themselves and their families. Beginning with detention centres in Malta, which many migrants had mistaken for Penso’s homeland of Italy, the photographer then travelled to Bulgaria where, between 2012 and 2013, the number of refugees surged from 1700 to 10,200. He followed migrant agricultural workers in Italy as they moved from one harvest to another. He also accompanied young adults from the Middle East trying to make their way from Greece (which refuses the majority of asylum seekers’ applications), to its neighbouring countries and beyond, capturing the moment when one, Mostafa El Mouzadhir, was deliberately hit by a car in a hate crime, sustaining multiple injuries. When Penso visited him in …
In September of last year, the city of Berlin opened its doors to thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, who had fled their war-torn countries in a desperate search for a new life. Registration centres that were set up to deal with less than half a dozen applicants a month, were overwhelmed by hundreds of families every day. At 10pm, when the centres closed, buses arrived to take the un-registered refugees to emergency accommodation – a gym, or community hall perhaps. Once those were full, the migrants with little more than the clothes on their backs, were left out on the streets until the centre opened its doors again in the morning. It was these images of overcrowding, and these reports of crisis that inundated the news headlines. Less talked about were the stories of the families that took these refugees, strangers from another country who did not speak their language, into their homes. Documentary photographer Aubrey Wade and partner Sarah Bottcher, were two of these volunteers who temporarily hosted a pair of young Afghan men at their new flat.