‘Now Here’ employs the language of large format tableau photography to provide an alternative witness to the Calais Refugee Camp in northern France as it existed in the winter of 15 / 16. With the topic of immigration so high on the political agenda at that time, following the Paris attacks and prior to the Brexit referendum, the collective image of the camp had become heavily saturated with sensational and politically polarising content. A lot of which focused on the camp’s potential threat to the UK and France. The aim of these images was to deconstruct any associated connotations and instead demand a careful reconsideration of the place and its inhabitants. Due to legal issues surrounding the asylum process and the representation of refugees; (a photograph carries the same weight as a fingerprint and would fix an asylum seeker at the place of documentation), I choose to instead place focus on their absence. By removing any expected focal points but instead revealing the shops, restaurants, schools and places of worship alongside shelters and various discarded objects; this approach deconstructs the layers of fear that had accumulated towards the camp and the figure of the refugee. It is through this use of absence that the photographs demand the construction of new narratives that place emphasis on the unseen conditions of exile.
“To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it, and to reassemble it as seen from his. […] The world has to be dismantled and re-assembled in order to be able to grasp, however clumsily, the experience of another. To talk of entering the other’s subjectivity is misleading. The subjectivity of another does not simply constitute a different interior attitude to the same exterior facts. The constellation of facts, of which he is at the centre, is different.”
John Berger, The Seventh Man (Verso, 1972, ed. 2010 – pg 97-98)
Tom Hatton is a photographer based in London. His project Now Here traces the lives of asylum seekers within and around the Calais Refugee Camp. Following his MA at the Royal College of Art, London in Fine Art Photography his work was selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries, 2017, the Magnum Graduate Photography Award and Source Magazine’s Best of Review of 10 Graduate Photographers in 10 Years
© text and pictures by Tom Hatton