The demolition of the Jungle began in March 2016 with the southern part of the camp, evicting thousand of migrants. ‘Lieu de Vie’ (living place) was spray painted across the camp, in the hope these living spaces would not be destroyed. This series of prints is based on material I gathered in Calais in September 2015. Whilst volunteering I processed what shocked and confused me by recording everything I witnessed through drawing, photography and writing.
On my return to the UK I researched the refugee crisis at length, in an attempt to find a rational explanation to the tragedy that was taking place in the country I call home. My work exposes an objective ‘truth’. It illustrates nothing more than what I saw. Gendarmes surveying people’s lives from above, local people deliberately driving their car into a group of refugees, a Sudanese man pouring me tea and showing me his Instagram full of selfies.
My aim was to give an alternate representation to the media’s biased black and white coverage of the Jungle that often dehumanised refugees. It illustrates my personal experience of meeting those that lived there, witnessing their everyday struggles, the injustice of their situation and the hardships they faced whilst waiting for asylum.
This was a self initiated project.
I travelled to the Calais Jungle to witness and make sketches, and did extensive research from the UK. I read original accounts from refugees and journalists, and attended conferences to try and gain a broad understanding of the causes, implications, but mostly to get the scale of the human crisis that was occurring.
In the print room I glanced at the dirty sketches, jotted-down conversations and crumpled photographs. I looked back at the fragments of my trip and every piece of paper became more brilliant as I recalled the different instances.
Monoprinting commences with a sleek and even coating of black oil. Every mark made in the ink allows the metallic glow to shine through. It gives the possibility to be changed and remodelled, scraped away with a fingernail or built up with a brush. Sending a print through the press gives the impression of an image being physically born, as you are only allowed to see it in its finished state when it is stripped off the plate; it is capricious and unpredictable.
The biggest problem for me was the fact that I started the project with the intention of finding some overall statement that characterised the whole crisis. The bulk of my research was directed towards this goal but it proved impossible to achieve. Even though I was reading first hand accounts from all over the world, the images I created were hard and impersonal. It was for this reason that for the final piece I returned solely to what I had experienced, what I knew for sure.
I gained a few insights from this project, but mostly the importance of drawing on location! I believe that to make the viewer feel, the drawing needs to come alive. The lines have to have movement, in order to offer to the viewer the humanity and emotional depth of real life events. I find it crucial to draw on site; you come to a deeper understanding of your surroundings. You observe time itself. Even if the drawing is not aesthetically pleasing or accurate, you have observed and understood what a photograph will never capture.