- Documenting undocumented migration
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. It is a story of contemporary heroes who undertake a Homeric journey into the unknown and confront terrible dangers and experience profound humiliations. Those who survive emerge fundamentally transformed and forever marked by their experiences. CLANDESTINE is an intimate investigation of men who must denounce themselves and become nobody in order to become somebody and how, as the journey unfolds, they become naked lives. In its essence, CLANDESTINE is a project about prolonged human liminality. The immediate drama of the actual crossing is mirrored in a profound psychological and symbolic journey. The crossing is a rite of transition, in which the 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 6 years, CLANDESTINE investigates how the migrants navigate the marginal ‘spaces’ they traverse and become entrapped in, and how they cope with fear, loneliness, longing, absence, shame and marginalisation during the journey, and in Europe.
Foregrounding the personal narratives of the migrants and documenting their trials, border crossings, 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 a growing population of invisible ‘outcasts of modernity’ who are relegated to a life in the shadows of the world economy.
The final product is a book with photographs and anthropological essays that discuss some of the crucial themes of undocumented migration.
The project has been exhibited in Athens, Berlin, Copenhagen, Genève, New York, Norderlicht, Saguenay and Taipei. Clandestine was endowed with the first prize in the 2011 Anthropographia Award for Human Rights, a 2nd place in the Deeper Perspective Award of the International Photography Awards in 2009 and recognised as Best Student Work at the PDN Photo Annual in 2008.