02 October 2018

Challenging the Negative Stereotypes around Refugees in Britain

02 October 2018 - Written by Simon Hall

London’s leading refugee employment charity, Breaking Barriers is set to open a new exhibition at Protein Studios in Shoreditch conveying the stories of ten people who have been supported by the charity, and highlighting significant relationships in their daily lives.

© Diana Markosian. Mayada Awad from Sudan

Open from 4 through 7 October, the exhibition - titled, A New Beginning - celebrates the power of photography alongside individual stories. Under the curatorship of Rebecca McClelland (former judge of the PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant) and Breaking Barriers, 11 renowned photographers and artists were commissioned to visually reflect the diverse character of the refugees’ experience in the UK. They include Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Nick Waplington, Caleb Femi, Campbell Addy, Diana Markosian, Jo Metson Scott, Léonie Hampton, Timur Celikdag, Leon Chew, and Samin Ahmadzadeh.

Through a series of portraits exploring both documentary and fashion photography; the studio and the street, each challenges negative and pessimistic stereotypes associated with the representation of refugees and offers an alternative way of thinking about their individual stories and cultures. Interviews conducted by multi award-winning journalist Samira Shackle will be paired with each portrait. Each artist received the interview prior to the image-making process. By pairing photographers and artists who made the UK their home with individuals engaged in a similar process, A New Beginning aims to break with a heavily defined representation of refugees and displacement through creative and collaborative images.

© Leon Chew. Mohsen Raiese from Iran

The people featured include a Syrian family arriving in the UK on an official resettlement program without speaking a word of English; a gay man from Egypt seeking personal freedom; a Yemeni human rights advocate displaced by war; a Kurdish political activist forced to flee from Turkey after being handed a jail sentence in childhood; a teenager from Eritrea making the wildly dangerous illegal overland journey to Britain. They are different ages, from different corners of the world, seeking refuge for a wildly varying host of reasons.

For many people, finding meaningful employment is vital to a sense of purpose and self-worth. But above and beyond their search for work, the people whose stories are told here are just that: people. The people who have shared their stories for this exhibition represent the diversity of experience of refugees to Britain. All of the individuals featured in the exhibition this year have been, or continue to be supported by Breaking Barriers who help to find meaningful work in line with each individual's experience and ambition.

At times, the images and stories describe harrowing journeys and challenging circumstances, but also show startling human resilience, and the hope and optimism that can emerge from personal connections.

© Nick Waplington. Ahmed Osman from Egypt


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Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

2 minutes

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