As David Levi Strauss says in Between the eyes: essays on photography and politics “the only safe way to interrupt panic is to slow down things, rely on social interaction to break the circle of irrational fears”(2007). Despite globalization and technological progress, the pervasivity of social media and our virtual ubiquity, one of the biggest problem in the international, and in particular in the European civil society, is to be seen in the inability to react to and overcome panic towards a new “other”, as in the case of the refugees.
We are so afraid of this unknown mass of nameless entities until the point that we have anesthetized our eyes and paralyzed our hearts. At this stage, the mind cannot but work as a broken engine.
The exploration of the representation and identity of refugees is the core of Furlanetto’s project. What is present in her work is an overlaying of journeys. The people portrayed come from different countries from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, but they are caught in front of the lens whilst in Europe. When the summer of 2015 was ending, the photographer went to find them in the South Italy, in former barracks and non governmental reception centers, in Sprar projects and private accommodations. When autumn approached, she met them in the cold tents of Calais refugees’ camp, the unpopular “Jungle”. She visited some of them again in Germany, and finally in the North of Italy during spring 2016.
The absurd of bureaucracy processes revealed themselves, as well as the leaks in the philosophy behind the European Union. The subjects allowed Sara to enter their lives, their personal spheres, all in different measures. All refugee stories, despite being very different under cultural, geographical, social and political aspects, eventually find common ground in the journey that brought them to Europe, and the feelings they carried with them. What is most relevant is that it is all about human stories, made of those elements that bound all human beings seeking freedom, peace, safety and happiness. Because of the large discussion around the refugees’ emergency, their image has been widely exploited by the media. More often though, the humanity and dignity of these people is being left out, contributing in implying the gap between “us” and “them”.
With this project the photographer aims to push the audience to see the person, first of all. It is an exercise, a chance to place ourselves in the position of pure listening, acknowledging the context and condition in which the refugees portrayed find themselves. It is essential, upon her opinion, to go further, listening to the cry repressed and stuck inside them, the emotional burden they carry, in order to enter in connection with them under a human perspective. Forget numbers, newspapers’ headlines, politicians’ talks.
Fear answers to respective fear, closure to closure, violence to violence. Strangely enough, the same mechanism applies when referring to a positive approach.
About the author:
Sara Furlanetto is a 23 year-old photographer, graduated in 2016 in Photojournalism from the London College of Communication, she intends to develop works on women’s and human rights across the world, and document the still present effects of colonialism on many countries’ societies. In 2015 she started a project on refugees aiming to offer an intimate, human perspective on the topic. She self-published a book about it, called Let me tell you who I am.