For the past couple of years, when able to take some time off from my job, I’ve pursued a project photographing refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) now in 12 different countries: Greece, Burma, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon. The refugees themselves were originally from a dozen countries including Syria, Burundi, Rwanda, Myanmar, DRC and North Korea.
The aim of the project has been to help: raising awareness through documentation is good, but raising money is better. Using exhibitions, a book (more below) and general suasion I have raised over US$50,000 for refugees over the past two years.
The project has various objectives. First, I want to remind people that the scale of the refugee crisis is one of the defining challenges of our lifetime. But really we should all know that; and the risk is that the problem is so vast that we treat it as being a collection of unmanageable statistics and disengage. So the next aim is to personalise the people I photograph as much as possible with names and stories so that the viewer finds it harder to look away.
My third aim is to challenge the implication in much Western media that the refugee crisis is largely one of Syrians and others trying to get to Western Europe via the Mediterranean and the Balkans. For sure the Syrian situation is an unmitigated disaster, but the plight of refugees extends far wider; and Europe’s challenges as a host of refugees pale in comparison with those of developing countries elsewhere.
Fourth, I want to show that for all the diversity of the issue, refugees everywhere share similar experiences as individuals: humiliation, a struggle to settle, limited choices, the catastrophe which forced them to flee.
All of the above themes combine in a book published in Japan last year: Glimpses Over The Edge. The book addresses both the staggering breadth of this problem and the commonality of the experiences of the people I met; and I acknowledge that given my limitations I can only offer glimpses of a much bigger issue.
The design, by Ayumi Higuchi, is a metaphor for the contents. GOTE is not a glossy coffee table book: it is small, light, portable. The screenprinted cover is made from the corrugated cardboard used in disposable packaging and boxes. The binding is lifejacket orange. Photographs travel across pages, resisting resolution, printed on matt paper which absorbs light rather than reflecting it: this is an appropriately dark document.
Proceeds net of publishing costs benefit refugee charities: it is crucial that this project is not about voyeurism but acts as an engine of positive change. Edition of 1,000, of which I’ve sold over 850 thus far.
Refugees international japan
Proceeds from this book, net of publishing costs, will be donated to Refugees International Japan (RIJ). RIJ is a Tokyo-based non-profit organisation which channels funds raised towards sustainable community-led projects for people displaced by violence around the world.
Justice centre hong kong
Justice Centre Hong Kong is a non-profit human rights organisation working fearlessly to protect the rights of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable forced migrants: refugees, other people seeking protection, survivors of torture, human trafficking and forced labour.
To enquire about volunteering with Justice Centre Hong Kong or Refugees International Japan, please fill out the form below.