New Londoners is a book of collaborative projects between Photovoice, an international charity that provides photographic training to marginalised communities, and Dost, who support vulnerable children, including refugees. The book contains writing and photographs from 15 young people, aged 13 to 23, whom have been mentored by photographers. All the refugees are now living in London, and tell their stories through the text and images.
What first strikes me about the book as a whole is the front cover. As the people in the image aren’t all perfectly staged, the adults and smallest child are looking to the right, with the smallest girl slumping her face, and the centre girl staring you right in the eye. It makes the photograph look more natural, than forced, like they want to show their family on the cover. The central girl definitely catches your eye, its a stare that draws you in and tells a story. They are all holding their certificate of citizenship, which clearly sets the scene for the book.
All the stories in the book are photographically very different, so i have chosen a few that i particularly liked or found interesting.
The first story in the book is Waiting for Amy. As i read the text first, it explains how it felt for Spahia moving to London, and finding a job. It focuses on his job as a videographer, and through this he expands to how it made him feel, instead of focusing on his story before he moved here. But I don’t feel like the photographs tell the same story, they are very random images, pigeons and sheep, hanging baskets. I considered that this may be because these are new things for Spahia, and they excited him to take photographs. But without captions on these images, it is unclear why he chose these images. It only tells us where he took the images, with these sheep being in Wales. Another thing i am unclear on, is why the title is Waiting for Amy. He doesn’t tell us who Amy is, or Charlotte, as the sheep images have ‘Waiting for Charlotte’ accompanying them. They could possibly be family members that he is still waiting to move over.
Overall i found this story a bit confusing, the text is written clearly, but the context of the images does throw me off the story.
Haile’s story is one of my favourites from this book, due to its simplicity. He doesn’t include a prologue for his images, but has extended captions to his images which explains small elements about his life. The captions are as simple as ‘This picture shows a mixture of pasta. I mixed them up because the packet ran out.’ to the image of an iron captioned ‘Everything is available here. I lived in the countryside and you would have to pay money to someone in the city if you wanted something ironed, perhaps for a wedding.’ They connect us with Haile, as its the little things in life that he appreciates and has chosen to tell us. He has also included two self portraits, but personally i do not find these as powerful as the images of his home, as they are posed, he wrote in one caption ‘i chose a gesture in the picture which shows i am thinking deeply about the future.’
In contrast, Siamia delves in to her emotions of living here. She includes images of her church and refugee council place (shown above). I feel she has thought a lot in to what she is going to present, to tell her story on a direct path of understanding the emotions that come with being a refugee, instead of letting us get to know her personally. The portrait above is her social worker, and in the caption she tells us ‘I have become closer to my social worker since taking her portrait.’ This suggests that she may be using the photography to be on her own path of understanding her emotions, and writing them down in a strategic order helps her process it. I don’t find this approach as effective, as i feel i don’t know much about Siamia after reading her story.
The explanation for Abdulrahman’s story is in the two small captions that start his project. The images are in pairs to present a feeling of being, but not being, every happy thought, comes combined with a bad one. For me this is really powerful, as there are no captions, it leaves the viewer to analyse the images and feel his emotions in the moment. I definitely feel no captions can work really well when used in the right context.
Reading through this book has taught me that every situation needs to be presented in its own way. There is no set way to present someones life, as each person has different emotions to express, and it has shown me the many ways that this can be done.