At the end of 2016, 15 disposable cameras were given out in the newly opened Porte de la Chapelle refugee camp in Northern Paris.
The aim of the ‘Disposable Perspectives’ project was to allow those living in the camp to document their own experiences and thus diversify the media perspective of the refugee crisis.
Of the 15 cameras given out, 8 were returned.
Many perished as a result of police brutality – an issue often underplayed, yet often experienced. These lost photos tell as much of a story as the developed ones; the instability of these peoples’ lives reflected in the interruption of their participation.
The photos from the 8 developed films offer a touching insight into the lives and the individuality of people normally defined by their immigration status. It is clear those involved appreciated the opportunity to have their say, and the resulting series is one of friendship and resilience in the face of difficult circumstances.
Each participant took a different approach. Some turned the lens inwards, upon themselves and their friends in the camp, whilst others took the opportunity to explore and photograph Paris landmarks.
Others experimented with composition, taking shots through fences and into metro reflections, with a creativity seldom explored in the homogenising media narrative on ‘migrants.’
Along with the cameras, each photographer was given a blank postcard to write an accompanying message for their photos. Those returned showed an acute awareness of the opportunity to send out a message, one read –
‘Police don’t respect to the asylum seekers! Guys asylum seekers not animals, asylum seekers are people!’
Another said –
‘Well maybe I’m not professional photographer but I know that what I done it means what I felt and I think photos is kind of art.’
Overall, the notes emphasise the heartfelt tone of the photographs, one entitled ‘good life in France’ with another ending ‘thank you for giving me hope.’
Though these images offer just a small window into the daily lives of those involved in the project, it is crucial they reach as wide an audience as possible. The more people see these images, the better chance they have of dispelling prejudice in an increasingly fearful society.
The fact the project started in an adult men’s camp gives it particular potential, this group having suffered the most from the scaremongering of the media and certain far-right political parties.
The ‘Disposable Perspectives‘ project will be exhibited at the HIVE, Dalston, London, between June 2-9th.