Documenting the European migrant crisis from the inside

Documenting the European migrant crisis from the inside
Refugees, immigrants, and first-generation citizens are joining forces for a new group show, In Transit, which shares the untold stories from the crisis.

In 2016, more than one million people fled Asia, Africa and the Middle East to arrive in Europe. It was a continent largely unprepared (or unwilling) to take on the challenges of helping refugees and migrants adjust to life in a new land. While the news was filled with devastating images of sunken ships, sick children and desolate camps, few of the individual stories behind the headlines ever reached the outside world.

When invited to curate an exhibition to East Wing, a photography platform founded in Qatar, Artistic Director Peggy Sue Amison decided it was time “to uncover the ignorance.” This led to In Transit, a multidisciplinary group exhibition of artists including George Awde, Daniel Castro Garcia, Gohar Dashti, Tanya Habjouqa, and Stefanie Zofia Schulz — who themselves are refugees, immigrants, and first-generation citizens.

In Transit takes us to Germany, Jordan, Lebanon, Italy, and Iran to look at the day-to-day lives of men, women, and children trying to survive in a foreign, often hostile world. “We’re not trying to solve a problem,” Amison explains. “The exhibition gives these migrants a face and puts the viewer in their position in an intimate way.”

Tanya Habjouqa, from the series Tomorrow There will be Apricots

Gohar Dashti, from the series Sateless

This sense of intimacy, of knowing the subjects as one knows their family and friends, is an extension of the artists’ dedication and commitment to their subjects. Photographer Stefanie Zofia Schulz, for example, was born in a displacement camp in southern Germany.

“Her mother is Polish, so she was allowed to emigrate,” Amison says. “Now Schulz is photographing children living through her same fate, spending up to 15 years of their lives in these camps. This is the only place they have ever known, even though it’s not where they are from.”

Stefanie Zofia Schulz, from the series Duldung/ Tolerance

“Stephanie’s work is about waiting. You see it in the children, this idea of not being able to move forward. The series is titled is Toleration. That’s what it says on their passport. They are ‘tolerated’ and at any point, they can be sent back and are no longer ‘tolerated.’”

With In Transit, the faceless, nameless masses are revealed: as men, women, and children: “We all want the same things: a safe place to live, a good life for their family, and a chance to grow, to be of service and have a happy and productive life, wherever they are living.”

George Awde, from the series Beirut

George Awde, from the series Beirut

Stefanie Zofia Schulz, from the series Duldung/ Tolerance

Tanya Habjouqa, from the series Tomorrow There will be Apricots

Gohar Dashti, from the series Sateless

In Transit is on view at San Francisco Camerawork from January 24-March 15, 2019.

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