La Ronde des Hirondelles (The Swallow's round)

The Swallow's Round deals with the meeting of exiles in Briançon, on the border with Italy. I explore their fleeting calm in the Alps, after the hard times of crossing, which blend with the uncertainty of their routine. This territory is their only refuge

Their names are Mohamed, Youcef, Mustapha, Ahmed, Ali, Tierno and Khalid. Originally from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, they were forced to flee their homes, leaving behind everything familiar and dear to them. After months, even years spent roaming through unsafe terrain, they finally arrived in Briançon, after crossing the Alps that separate Italy from France. The presence of these men here is not a matter of choice, but rather the result of certain unavoidable circumstances. In Briançon, they are forced to survive on the margins of society, on the thresholds of the frontiers of the law, where the exception becomes the norm. These men are in a latent state. Isolated.

I met Mohamed, Youcef, Mustapha, Ahmed, Ali, Tierno and Khalid between 2021 and 2023, following my various stays in this area, where, from 2018 to 2021, I undertook a voluntary service at Refuge Solidaire. They all live on the heights of Briançon, in an unusual house with a unique history, nicknamed Chez Marcel, (" from the name of its late owner "). Some stay there for several months until they find a job - which is precarious and often illegal - while others are waiting for their asylum claim to be processed. And then there are those whose asylum applications have been rejected, who have resigned themselves to this life of wandering.

Over time, they come to embrace this land as their own. 

Over the weeks we spent together, a strong bond of friendship grew between us. Bodies and words began to flow. The camera was no longer seen as an intrusive element; it became a tool that allowed us to connect with each other and share real moments of life. We shared stories that were both intimate and anecdotal. I often found myself speechless, stunned by the depth of the stories these men were telling me, entrusting me with their life's journey. Each story was full of grief and trauma, but their voices no longer trembled, as if they had learned to mask their emotions. Or had they simply resigned themselves?

Together we walked through the vast expanses of the Briançonnais mountains. They walked hoping to forget the weight of their thoughts and escape the oppressive presence of home. I was just a companion, a shoulder to lean on.

I accompanied tired, fragmented bodies. Bodies on hold, subject to the state authorities' decisions, authorizations and obligations. Each of them was inhabited by their traumas, weighed down by the fear and weight of being forced to leave the French territory at any moment. The fragility of being and the body is an omnipresent reality for these men in exile.

Mohamed, Mustapha, Youcef, Ahmed, Ali, Khalid and Tierno find themselves trapped in this situation. They circle in circles in the landscape, similar to the swallows in flight, whose graceful, swift movements embody freedom and hope. They are looking for a hospitable land, a place where they will be accepted with kindness and where they can find peace. But unlike the swallows, they may never return to their homeland. With nowhere else to go, they have made their nest in Briançon and are passing the time as best they can. Their relationship with nature, with this hostile and majestic land, becomes their only sanctuary—a place of rest and abandonment, disturbed only by painful memories.

"La ronde des hirondelles" explores contemporary issues and discourses within current photography by offering alternative representations of refugees and tender portraits. Its aims is to amplify marginalized voices and disrupt dominant narratives. "La ronde des hirondelles" invites us to become aware of the diversity of narratives that shape today's migratory identities and, of the multiple stories that make up the fabric of exile.

© Florence Cuschieri - Untitled. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022
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Untitled. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Mohamed. Croix de Toulouse. 2022
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Mohamed. Croix de Toulouse. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Mohamed. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022
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Mohamed. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Mohamed. Chez Marcel. 2023
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Mohamed. Chez Marcel. 2023

© Florence Cuschieri - The babyfoot. Chez Marcel. 2021
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The babyfoot. Chez Marcel. 2021

© Florence Cuschieri - Untitled. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022
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Untitled. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Mustapha. Pont d’Asfeld. 2021
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Mustapha. Pont d’Asfeld. 2021

© Florence Cuschieri - Untitled. Chez Marcel. 2023
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Untitled. Chez Marcel. 2023

© Florence Cuschieri - The ice wing. Barrage du Baldy. 2022
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The ice wing. Barrage du Baldy. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Ahmed. Pont de Cervières. 2021
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Ahmed. Pont de Cervières. 2021

© Florence Cuschieri - Untitled. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022
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Untitled. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - The piano. Chez Marcel. 2023
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The piano. Chez Marcel. 2023

© Florence Cuschieri - Youcef. Chez Marcel. 2023
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Youcef. Chez Marcel. 2023

© Florence Cuschieri - Ali. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2021
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Ali. Puy-Saint-Pierre. 2021

© Florence Cuschieri - Untitled. Col du Montgenèvre. 2022
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Untitled. Col du Montgenèvre. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Tierno. Chez Marcel. 2021
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Tierno. Chez Marcel. 2021

© Florence Cuschieri - Mustapha. Pont de Cervière. 2022
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Mustapha. Pont de Cervière. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Briançon. Cité Vauban. 2022
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Briançon. Cité Vauban. 2022

© Florence Cuschieri - Ahmed. Barrage du Baldy. 2021
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Ahmed. Barrage du Baldy. 2021

© Florence Cuschieri - Images extract from the contact sheet of the 26 km walk from Clavières (IT) to Briançon (FR).
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Images extract from the contact sheet of the 26 km walk from Clavières (IT) to Briançon (FR).