It was with a poignant project capturing the human face of the refugee crisis that acclaimed photographer Daniel Castro Garcia won BJP International Photography Award 2017.
Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015-2016 was conceived by Garcia in collaboration with John Radcliffe Studio partners Thomas Saxby and Jade Morris, in reaction to the sensationalist coverage of the issue by Western media and a desire to draw attention to this humanitarian disaster.
Produced as a collaborative endeavour with people he met whilst travelling along some of the main migration routes, the project provides a candid insight into the everyday realities of individuals caught up in the crisis.
“Winning the BJP IPA was a huge step in my career. It is a seal of approval that has raised my profile in a really big way, bringing huge exposure to my work. I am incredibly proud of it and it has given me the confidence and impetus to push my work further,” he says.
Following on from his success at the IPA, the past year has seen Garcia permanently relocate to Sicily after winning the Magnum Foundation Fund 2017. Receiving this funding has enabled Garcia to develop the next chapter of the project documenting young, unaccompanied minors rescued from the Mediterranean.
Having done a large amount of work there prior to the BJP IPA show, Garcia was determined to return in order to shed light on the dire situations faced by Sicily’s refugee and migrant populations.
“I felt early on that Sicily was a very special area in the narrative of Europe’s refugee/migrant crisis and many of the hardest stories I heard were from that region. It is a place whereby the individuals at the heart of the situation are grossly misrepresented and unheard, and ultimately they are part of a system that does little to integrate them into their new society.”
Garcia comments that without the solo exhibition at TJ Boulting Gallery, which was part of his Award, the project might have run out of steam.
At the time of winning, Foreigner had already garnered extensive media coverage and the book was completely sold out. In desperate need of funds and unsure of which direction to take the project in next, the show offered an opportunity to consider the work from fresh perspectives and explore its power and potential outside of the context of the photobook.
“The exhibition at TJ Boulting proved that the work could go beyond page or screen. It showed that the images and subject were malleable and could become more three-dimensional and life-like. It allowed the individuals we were working with to speak for themselves and communicate their experiences directly to the audience.”
The experience of curating his first solo exhibition also opened up new creative possibilities for Garcia as an artist. Working alongside TJ Boulting director, Hannah Watson to curate the show, Garcia was determined to execute a new vision of the project that would ensure it translated into the gallery space.
Consequently, along with his colleagues Tom Saxby and Jade Morris, he spent the short time leading up to the exhibition travelling to Sicily and Marseille to make new work, comprising two ten minute films, a sculpture and a further publication, Foreigner: Collected Writings 2017, combining photographs from the project with accompanying texts by leaders in the field.
“It was amazing. It was certainly the best professional experience of my life aside from actually producing the photographs and book. It was my first opportunity to express myself as an artist and filmmaker, not just a photographer,” says Garcia.
Since winning, Garcia has gone on to have a number of other solo exhibitions along with numerous group shows, including a showcase at Senate House Library and Cortona On The Move.
One of the central aims of Foreigner: Migration into Europe 2015-2016 is to encourage people to think about the refugee crisis from alternate perspectives and question the mainstream media’s representation of it. Winning the IPA helped further this, providing an opportunity for Garcia to bring the stories of the individuals he collaborated on the project with to wider audiences and into new contexts.
Garcia remembers receiving a flood of messages from people following his Award and solo exhibition, all of whom had been deeply affected by the work in different ways. “Many people have told me how moved they were by both ‘A Eulogy for Sana’ by Madia Souare and the film ‘Gucci… The Journey of Aly’, and it feels good to know that people took something away from the experience.”
For Garcia, the project is far from over. Commenting on the coverage of the crisis in Italy, he observes that the tone of many of the commentators is more alarming than anything he has previously seen.
“This pantomime must stop. The damage being caused by politicians and the media on a social level is extremely worrying and very powerful and dangerous ideas are growing exponentially.”
With his new work, Garcia intends to carry on investigating how the crisis is being reported on, exploring alternate ways to draw attention to this humanitarian disaster as it continues to unfold.
BJP’s International Photography Award 2020 is currently open for applications. Apply now: www.bjpipa.com / Deadline: 8 October 2020 – 23:59 (UK Time).