“Clandestine” is a story about life and death. It is the story of men who risk everything in order to provide a better future for their families; a story of contemporary heroes who undertake a Homeric journey into the unknown and confront terrible dangers and profound humiliation. Those who survive emerge fundamentally transformed and forever marked by their experiences.

At its core, “Clandestine” is a project about prolonged human liminality; that is to say, an intimate investigation of men who must denounce themselves and become nobody in order to become somebody. As their journey unfolds, the immediate drama of the actual crossing is mirrored in a profound psychological and symbolic journey. The crossing is a rite of passage in which young migrants become suspended in an existential no-man’s land between adolescence and adulthood, between the familiar and the foreign. Between Africa and Europe. Between life and death.

Based on recurrent participant observations, ethnographic fieldwork and photographic research over a period of six years, “Clandestine” investigates how migrants navigate the marginal “spaces” they traverse and become entrapped in, and how they cope with fear, loneliness, longing, absence, shame and marginalization both during the journey and once they arrive in Europe.

Foregrounding the personal narratives of the migrants and documenting their border crossings—including encounters with authorities, human smugglers and humanitarian personnel—the project presents a critique of a world order in which the poor, who are increasingly constrained in their mobility, are forced to become “illegal” in order to support their families. The project focuses on the growing population of invisible outcasts of modernity” who are relegated to a life in the shadows of the world economy.

—Christian Vium

Editors’ Note: Christian Vium is a member of the LensCulture Network, a recent initiative we launched with the idea of offering talented, accomplished photographers a place to showcase their work on a global stage while also giving them a place to share, learn and engage with one another. The LensCulture Network began with a small number of hand-picked members, and we are very excited to watch it grow and evolve.

“Clandestine” has been exhibited in Athens, Berlin, Copenhagen, Geneva, New York, Norderlicht, Saguenay and Taipei. The final product is a book with photographs and anthropological essays that discuss some of the crucial themes of undocumented migration.