Cameras in the hands of protagonists

Cameras in the hands of protagonists

18/12/2017 - 15:40

Awareness. The participatory photography project ‘Transit Tales’ offers an intimate first-hand account of the experiences of refugees and migrants who have arrived in Europe.

‘Transit Tales’ is an artistic and personal narrative looking at the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ from a different perspective. Driven by the CFD Barcelona documentary and media centre, this European project was conducted in Barcelona, Berlin and Paris from 2016 to 2017. The most innovative aspect of the project was that it put its cameras in the hands of those at the centre of the narrative, offering first-hand accounts of their flights, journeys and asylum experiences. The travelling exhibition for this participatory photographic experience is on at Barcelona’s Convent de Sant Agustí from 19 December to 14 January.

Transit Tales has its origins in the Jungleye project, started in November 2015 by the CFD photography student Séverine Sajous in the Calais refugee camp known as the ‘Jungle’, which was evacuated and dismantled in October 2016. Sajous and the architect Julie Brun spent six months there rolling out a participatory photography project which is still alive on social media. Ten refugees from different countries learnt photography techniques in a recreational way and put their knowledge to use as a way of explaining their experiences. Jungleye is now working with refugees at the Zweibrücken camp in Germany.

Transit Tales took this experience as a starting point and built on it. Promoted by the CFD and Jungleye, the Oiseaux Sans Tête collective from Brussels and the Berlin-based EYFA network also joined in. The project received funding from the Erasmus+ programme and the ‘Barcelona, Refuge City’ plan.

Representing the other

Like Jungleye, Transit Tales was born from the need to question the way migrants and refugees are portrayed. The aim was to give a voice to the protagonists of the narrative, equipping them as people in transit with the necessary tools be able to tell their stories.

“It’s they who decide what they want to show about their story. The image of the refugee is a bit distorted and we thought it would be very interesting for people to get the perspective of refugees themselves”, asserts the photographer Anna Bosch, codirector of the CFD Barcelona.

Besides the camera, the photographers worked with logbooks, albums or artistic frames combining images and texts and allowing them to express emotions and experiences, transmitting messages according to a sequence of instructions.

“The logbook is a methodological tool which allows people to express things which have happened in their lives in a very poetic fashion. Really strong messages end up coming out”, adds Bosch.

Web and activities

The project began in Barcelona in October 2016 with an initial series of activities, including seminars, round tables and workshops aimed at professionals and the general public. Others followed in other places in Europe. The project rounds off with a session at the CFD on 20 December.

Following on from there, participatory workshops were conducted with refugees and migrants, all run by Séverine Sajous, some with the help of Bosch. Five workshops were run in total, one in Berlin, one in Ivry-Sur-Seine  at the emergency reception centre for women and families run by Emmaüs Solidarité and opened in January 2017, and three in Barcelona, two of which were held at the Casa Bloc in Santa Andreu and one with LGBTI migrants and refugees receiving support from the Acathi association.

Transit Tales also has an interactive website to give continuity to the project and and include other similar experiences. One example is ‘Somnis refugiats’, a participatory photography prpoject conducted in Barcelona by the photographer Héctor Mediavilla with eleven refugees and asylum seekers, also supported by the City Council.


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