BEAF Introduces: Seeking Refuge

Introducing Seeking Refuge, Caroline & the photographers.

“Forced migration is a pressing issue in the modern world. It is an issue which we usually view from afar”

This week we chatted to Caroline Beale Johnson about the incredible work her project Seeking Refuge is undertaking and of course, asked her what it means to be human.

Seeking Refuge is a photographic project that will use images and words arising from the lives of refugees and migrants currently seeking asylum and living in Bournemouth. For this project Caroline has selected and is working with photographers to provide an insight into the lives of the displaced migrant community.

“Refugee is just a word we use without thinking about the stories.”

How did the project begin? What was your motivation?

After spending several years in the world of photography and working on many different projects I realised I was most inspired by photography for good.

Forced migration is a pressing issue in the modern world. It is an issue which we usually view from afar. There is still a huge misconception within the mainstream media about forced migration and why refugees and migrants are fleeing to our shores.

Much of these discussions imply that these people are risking their lives and leaving everything they have, just for our benefits system. There is a need to challenge these misconceptions and tell the true stories behind these unimaginable decisions. Refugee is just a word we use without thinking about the stories.

“Without the umbrella of BEAF the project wouldn’t have received funding”

How has BEAF helped the project development?

Picture of Bournemouth Beach with two deckchairsIncredibly! Without the umbrella of BEAF the project wouldn’t have received funding, which allowed us to take the first steps towards the project’s reality. Through the support of BEAF we were able to gain funding for our photographers. Securing our photographers in the early stages has been crucial to the continuing development of the project.

As with most projects, Covid has provided us with delays, meaning the project is not where we had hoped at this moment. However, BEAF is enabling us to have somewhere to show our work even in its smaller capacity.

“We will be able to reveal the lives of refugees and migrants, not from afar, but from the inside.”

How do you picture the project connecting with the community?

There are many charities out there doing amazing work and providing support for refugees and their families. We are currently working with the International Care Network, specifically their Bournemouth branch. ICN work extremely hard to build trust with refugees in the community and they have been an incredible liaison for us.

When restrictions allow, we have plans to hold creative workshops with refugee families and ICN. These workshops will be a vital part of the project and the relationships between our photographers and the refugee families. We hope to be able to work with the children to make pinhole cameras. Through this, we will be able to reveal the lives of refugees and migrants, not from afar, but from the inside.

“They can’t wait to see each other in real life”

How are the relationships between the photographers and the refugee’s developing? 

Before the first lockdown came into place the photographers and the refugees were able to meet in person with the help of ICN. Unfortunately, when lockdown hit they were forced to chat virtually which has obviously made building relationships harder. The lack of body language has been a challenge however, being online has helped with translation.

Given these challenges, they have all made some amazing connections and already cannot wait to see each other in real life. For the refugees and migrants who have left careers and families behind, trusting people can be extremely difficult. Therefore, ensuring we maintain contact beyond the project is so important.

To love and be loved

What does being human mean to you? 

Picture of Caroline Beale Johnson

This is a big question! Finding photography slightly later in life than most, and realising this passion as a career has hugely impacted my happiness. For me, being creative is such an important part of feeling human.

However, after some great discussions with my family we concluded that being human is the ability to love and be loved.

Where you can find the exhibition?

A big thank you to Caroline for chatting with us and introducing Seeking Refuge. You’ll have to wait until BEAF 2021 to visit the exhibition, but in the meantime why not check out the amazing photographers taking part:

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