‘Status: Undocumented’ - part two. From photographer Dirk-Jan Visser: This is the story of Mabintou, a 25-year-old girl from Guinea Conakry who now lives as a ‘Sans Papiers’ in Paris. Her personal album pictures are a showcase of romanticizing the past, used to connect different times and places with each other. Detained and raped while participating in a student demonstration against the dictatorial regime of Lansana Conté, she decided to flee to France after her release. Now seven years in France without any future consistency she has not lost her political activism, following the political developments in Guinea where the history of violence and instability repeats itself constantly, fighting the France system for recognition of the people without papers. In July 2012 Mabintou received her permanent residency.
The story of Mabintou is part of the ‘Status: Undocumented’ project, which I started for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. In this project I am photographing the everyday life of five illegal migrants living in different European capitals. I am researching the personal motivations of illegal migration in Europe. By showing their everyday struggle in Europe, combined with images of the country of origin and the beloved ones who are left behind.
The current debate in many countries in the European Union on issues of migration and integration makes the individual person disappear in statistics and figures. By trouble shooting policy the illegal migrant as a person is reduced to a pinball in the search for a sustainable solution in a Union that is totally divided regarding this matter. The debate focuses exclusively on the situation here within the Union, and leaves out the people it concerns: the migrants. This project will lift the veil from the unknown migrant stories, and will reveal the diversity of reasons why people choose to live a life in illegality in Europe from a personal perspective. Meanwhile it will also be a mirror showing how we - Western Europeans - relate ourselves to these migrants.
About Dirk-Jan Visser: I am a news and documentary photographer based in The Netherlands, focusing on social, economic and political issues around the world. In my projects I aim to raise awareness for contemporary social issues in which I am particularly sensitive for the consequences of large political decisions on regular individuals. Through my photography I focus on small personal stories, giving the individual a face and voice as a metaphor for larger and complex issues. Engaging with society from grassroots perspectives I use my camera to communicate and aspire to create understanding on contemporary issues in relation to political and economic transformations.
Collaborator: Michelle Q Hamers is a photo-historian and allround producer and organisor in the photography field. She creates multimedia productions and initiates in depth photographic research.