Forgetting the Refugee

Jesper Houborg

2015 - 2018


'Forgetting the Refugee'.

In 2015 and 2016 I traveled to the island of Lesvos and the northern border town of Idomeni in Greece to document the ongoing refugee crisis as a freelance photographer and volunteer for the small NGO Starfish on Lesvos.

Today, the news value of the refugee is often long gone and one might say replaced with indifference. The extraordinary suffering of these people becomes the new normal, a normal we learn to accept.

With this piece, I am seeking to transcend the photojournalistic image of the refugee by violating the image itself. My hope is to re-open the conversation about the heavily debated topic of the refugee: How do you relate to the trauma of people fleeing war? How do you as a mass media consumer relate to the overload of images depicting the influx of refugees into Europe and beyond? How do you relate to people when their identity is distorted? What does the distortion of identity mean for your entitlement to human rights?

Forgetting the Refugee is a re-work of my archival images from this period. By re-photographing my digital images with an analog camera, and violating the film negatives by distorting the identity of the refugees on the images. Finally, the analog negatives have been scanned and made into new digital files and printed on transparent tracing paper. With this act, I am seeking to re-actualize the image of the refugee by confronting the viewer’s gaze of the refugee and vice versa, with a violated and distorted version of the depicted people.

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