Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015-2016 wins BJP's International Photography Award

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Daniel Castro Garcia has won the British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award 2017, with a series depicting migrants caught up in the European refugee crisis. His work will be exhibited at London’s TJ Boulting from Thursday 16th March – Saturday 8th April, in a solo show which will also be his first major exhibition.

Castro Garcia began photographing the crisis without a commission in 2015, spending weeks getting to know his subjects and interviewing nearly everyone he shot. “I think that’s the backbone of the work,” he says.

“Going up to people and speaking to them, discussing their situation before even mentioning photography. I really have a strong belief that it’s a collaboration. Without engaging with the individuals and conveying what you’re trying to do with them, it’s worthless.”

Working with his friend, graphic designer Thomas Saxby, and producer Jade Morris, Castro Garcia then self-published a book of the images called Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015-2016, working on a tight six-week deadline in order to launch it before the UK’s Brexit vote. It went on to be nominated for both the MACK First Book Award and the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First Book Award, and to be published in BJP’s September 2016 Migration issue.

The limited edition of 1000 copies has now sold out but, rather than reprinting, Castro Garcia plans to get back out into the field and make new work. He plans to move to the port town of Catania for an extended period of time, where he will work in an unaccompanied minors’ centre.

Saxby and Castro Garcia are childhood friends and work together under the name John Radcliffe Studio, a reference to the hospital they were both born in. They will collaborate again, with Saxby curating, to produce the IPA exhibition and the main priority, says Castro Garcia, is to ensure the subjects are presented with dignity.

“I think it’s about trying to present the work in a way that when people walk into the room you can go up to any photograph and engage with it and really look that person in the eye and consider: ‘What are the differences between this individual and the viewer? Are they different?’”

Foreigner was published as an intervention into the frosty, anti-immigration media landscape which sprung up prior to the Brexit vote, the IPA show will also tackle “compassion fatigue” and the way people interact with news stories in their installation. But most of all, he says, he wants the exhibition to be about “calm, considered thought”.

“I think it’s really important for a show like this to have zero gimmicks. Everyone has seen the life jacket installations now. I don’t want to trick anyone – that’s the most important thing here: this subject needs sobriety. It can’t always be about emotions. The same way it can’t be about facts and figures.”

North African men threading their eyebrows. Calais, France, November 2015. From the series Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015-2016 © Daniel Castro Garcia
North African men threading their eyebrows. Calais, France, November 2015. From the series Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015-2016 © Daniel Castro Garcia

The IPA judging panel included photographer Nadav Kander; Brett Rodgers, the director of the Photographer’s Gallery; Michael Mack, the founding director of Mack Books; Simon Bainbridge, BJP’s editorial director; Chantal Webber, founder of Webber Represents, and Hannah Watson, director of the TJ Boulting Gallery.

“The Foreigner series stood out, not only for some really strong images that often cross both documentary and artistic concepts, but because the whole project has been put together with a lot of dedication and energy and reaches out beyond the realms of photography to a very timely issue that we felt should be highlighted,” commented Watson.

As part of the IPA, Castro Garcia will also receive a £5,000 production grant from Metro Imaging and images from Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015-2016 will be featured for three weeks on WeTransfer’s homepage, which will reach an audience of 80 million worldwide.

“This has just given me confidence to carry on and I’m really grateful for that,” says Castro Garcia. “I just want to keep moving with it now. I’ve got a thirst for it.”

The deadline for applications for the 2019 edition of BJP International Photography Award is 20 December 2018 – 4pm GMT.  Apply now!