Migration is a not a new phenomenon. But it comes to our attention regularly. News stories are abundant. From terrible tragedies at sea to local communities going to extraordinary lengths to help to migrants.
As a photographer, I wanted my photography to contribute positively to the plight of migrants. The question was how? I did not want to indulge in ‘migrant porn’, a variation of poverty porn. This led me to question whether I could use photography at all.
In October 2022 this changed. The UK’s Home Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons. She referred to an ‘invasion’ of migrants. Later, on 7 March 2023, the same Home Secretary referred to ‘waves of illegal migrants’.
Now, the dictionary definition of those words, used in that context, set me wondering – how did her remarks reflect my everyday experience? If I looked around myself, did a 360º turn, did I feel invaded by waves of people disrupting my life or intent on causing me harm? The answer was emphatically ‘no’. Regardless of where I was standing.
Talking about this with friends led me to develop the idea for a photographic project. What if I could show a series of photographs, grouped in a set of six, with each set showing a 360º view of a location? How would the viewer see, think and feel? Invaded, disrupted or reassured by their everyday surroundings?
I decided to see if I could enlist the support of fellow photographers. I am a member of London Independent Photography (LIP). I put my idea to a number of members and was delighted with the positive response. Also, LIP agreed to host the resulting work on its website.
I decided upon showing multiple locations in London, UK, where I live, with a set of six taken in each of the 33 ‘boroughs’ (local government districts). The resulting 198 images would be show in video format with a minimal amount of text to set the context.
From that point on, I found myself project managing as well as taking photographs. I wrote a ‘playbook’ so that contributing photographers understood exactly what the project was trying to do, and how exactly to help. It also dealt with matters such as privacy (taking the six images in a public space) and copyright (to be retained by the photographer). I set a timetable for the image capture to be completed by. I created a system for managing the incoming images and a storyboard for building the video installation which you can see here.
I also wanted to engage social media so I created an Instagram account (@360Migration), Twitter (@360Migration) and a You Tube account (@360Migration) specifically to showcase the video installation. Using the internet and social media for the finished work was an easy choice. The footfall through a local exhibition venue in London would be measured in a few hundred at best. It would also be costly to stage (venue hire, printing and framing). The internet and social media had the possibility of engaging with thousands and was relatively cost free.
The success of this project is for others to judge. I set out to use photography to reflect my viewpoint on migration. I have not tried to provide answers to the issue of migration. Along the way, I discovered how the process of collaboration is a rewarding experience in and of itself.
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