Since the beginning of this year, Gignoux Photos has been collaborating with JRS, the Jesuit Refugee Service, in Wapping to further develop our “You can see me, but I don’t exist” project exploring the effect of the asylum-seeking process in the UK on individuals.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organisation, at work in over 50 countries around the world with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. JRS UK has a special ministry to those who find themselves destitute as a consequence of government policies and those detained for the administration of immigration procedures.
With the support of JRS Refugee Activity Coordinator Dallya Alhorri, we organised for Alan Gignoux to take camera obscura portraits of twelve long term asylum seekers, some of whom have been waiting for a response to their applications for as long as nineteen years. In July, we completed a series of writing workshops led by poet Laila Sumpton in which refugees were asked to write poems, written reflections and letters in response to Gignoux’s photographic portraits. The resulting poems addressed themes such as the strains of living in limbo, poverty, isolation, and despair, but also love, memories of home, hopes and dreams. We hope to publish Gignoux’s images alongside the refugees’ writing in a photobook next year following a planned extension of the project to Manchester and Birmingham. In addition, we aim to exhibit the work in libraries in all three locations during Refugee Week 2023.