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London through refugee eyes

About the author
PhotoVoice is an award-winning international non-profit organisation, based in London UK. Working alongside both international organisations and local partners, PhotoVoice provides in-field photojournalism workshops for those living on the fringes of society. Internationally it provides the platform for these groups to exhibit and market their work.

The following images are part of the “Moving Lives” and “Transparency” projects by the award-winning development organisation PhotoVoice.

Moving Lives

Moving Lives is one of PhotoVoices’s most recent programmes, and screened on 19 June at the Celebrating Sanctuary festival in London. A photography and digital-storytelling project, it aims to help newly arrived refugees settle in the UK. The young people were trained in digital photography, storytelling and post-production skills and made the digital stories in April 2005. The stories are the results of the first of five workshops to take place during 2005, what follows are four stills from the project.

The sky is the limit

© Ivan/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

© Ivan/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

They said the sun doesn’t shine in England

© Gholam/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

© Gholam/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

Everything with a beginning has an end

© Michael/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

© Michael/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

A beautiful cat like my cat at home

 © Azad/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

© Azad/Moving Lives/PhotoVoice

Transparency: Living without borders

Photography by unaccompanied refugee youth London, United Kingdom, 2002 – 2003

“6,000 young people are believed to have fled their native countries and travelled alone to the UK to seek asylum. In 2000, 2,735 unaccompanied refugee children applied for asylum there, but still relatively little is known about their individual experiences.

The Transparency project offers a window on the experiences of a group of young refugees since their arrival in London’s East End from countries including Afghanistan, Angola, Iraq, Nigeria, Romania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka. Through photography, the 13 students expressed their desire for people to look beyond their refugee status and to see them as they see themselves: as teenagers, far from home, in a difficult present, determined to succeed in spite of their past.” This selection includes five images form the project

Laundrette late at night

They were closing and it was almost night. The light inside was so nice a yellow colour so I just took it.

© Tatiana / Transparency / PhotoVoice

© Tatiana / Transparency / PhotoVoice

Tatiana arrived in the UK from Angola at the age of 17. Since participating in Transparency, with support from PhotoVoice, she has studied a BTEC in Photography and last year won a national scholarship supported by The Arts Council and Autograph to study a BA in Photography at one of London’s leading photography colleges, The London College of Communication. In the last three years Tatiana has been commissioned by the BBC to document National Aslyum Day, had her work selected to hang in the National Portrait Gallery as part of Self Portrait UK and has had her work printed in numerous publications. To celebrate Refugee Week 2005 she had her first solo show at The Menier Gallery in London, ‘Other Ways of Seeing; Portraits of Refugees in London’.

“My View of London – moody people”

© Lawrence / Transparency / PhotoVoice

© Lawrence / Transparency / PhotoVoice

Lawrence arrived in the UK from Nigeria aged 13. He is now studying Aeronautical Engineering at university in Brighton after falling in love with the town when he visited it as part of a PhotoVoice trip in 2002. He is still a keen photographer since participating in Transparency and last year he co-facilitated photography summer workshops with PhotoVoice for other young refugees in East London.

New friends

“Where ever you go you can make friends – these boys are some of my new friends. Hakim is from Somalia and Hawdin is from Iraq, a country he says possesses a strong nuclear arsenal and is ruled by the dictator Saddam Hussein. Months ago, me and Hakim were in Africa, Hawdin in Iraq, but now we’re in Europe and our lives have changed and shall never be the same again.”

© Onesmus / Transparency / PhotoVoice

© Onesmus / Transparency / PhotoVoice

Onesmus arrived in the UK from Rwanda aged 15, with a keen interest in politics and journalism. Through Transparency he explored social issues that struck him as he was getting to know the UK, doing a project on homelessness. Since the project he has, with support from PhotoVoice, spoken at conferences on the issues affecting young refugees and children in conflict. Onesmus is now doing his final A-level exams in 4 subjects. He plans to study law at university.

Homeless – Mojo’s hands

“When I arrived in this country I was shocked to see homeless people in old and dirty clothes on the streets. When I saw these people it changed the idea of what I had imagined Britain and America to be like. I wasn’t shocked about the idea of disadvantaged people living on the streets - Africa is a major part of this story - but in my mind I thought that this would be one of the differences between first and third world countries. Third world countries are some of the poorest countries in the world – it is therefore obvious for us to understand the reason why some people in those countries are homeless.

But why are there people in Britain living on the streets? I went to the west end and met Mojo and Phillip. Mojo ran away from a children’s home when he was 9 and Phillip had a nervous breakdown last Christmas and went to a hostel for about 3 months. When he returned his flat had been occupied. They have both suffered a lot and think living on the street is horrible. They know that many passers-by are prejudiced towards street dwellers and that some people just don’t care any more. It is not an exciting adventure to look at the wounds on their bodies. It is rough outside. Living on the streets isn’t an easy resort. If we put ourselves in Mojo and Phillip’s shoes we would admit that street life is a horror and can have devastating effects, mentally and physically. Mojo and I wonder why the government takes more care of foreigners – asylum-seekers – than the British people living on the street. Is it not our responsibility to try and advocate for their rights? Because Mojo and Phillip are just like you and me, and they deserve their rights.”

© Onesmus / Transparency / PhotoVoice

© Onesmus / Transparency / PhotoVoice

In Flying Motion

It was a bit of a challenge for me to capture all the birds low down, in the same motion. I had to be patient and take my time. Lots of birds in this country are friendly and remind me of the parrots and wild animals in Africa. I took this picture in Green Park. Such looking places have changed my former perception of London. While still in Africa I used to think there were no trees in London. Because Africa is totally bush, people imagine London is so modern that there are no trees, no bush. Maybe people here think that there are no buildings in Africa.

© Onesmus / Transparency / PhotoVoice

© Onesmus / Transparency / PhotoVoice


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