A year and a half after the vote that decided Britain would – eventually – leave the EU, and the discourse is just as confusing, chaotic, and convoluted as it ever was. One of the many implications to stem from the Brexit dialogue since June 2016 is, of course, the uncertain future for the 2.3 million citizens of other EU countries who have made their home in the UK. This was something that struck London-based photographer Julian Love, and inspired his most recent project The Europeans.
Taking a wide selection of portraits of individuals and families who have settled down and established careers, relationships, families and entire lives in London, Love wants to “put a human face on the whole thing”, as distinct from the barrages of statistics, buzzwords, and polemic that have drowned out these individual stories. In showing these portraits alongside the nationalities, job titles, and duration of these peoples’ time so far in London, he wants to highlight the immense contribution they have made to the UK.
“Nobody was actually talking about the people who were most directly impacted by [Brexit],” he says. “We’re just rolling the dice of their future. I just wanted to show the huge human dimension to all this that gets overlooked.”
Love wanted to cover as wide a spread of individuals as possible, and has collected over 60 portraits of people of all ages, backgrounds and professions. There is Philippe, a French professor of European Politics at UCL who has lived in the UK since 1994. There is Kate, a Hungarian childcare provider who has been here since 2003. There is Sid, a retired Cypriot orthodontist who has been living in London since 1963. The list goes on.
Love points to a picture of Nadia, a teacher originally from Austria who has lived here for eight years, and who is pictured with her husband and two children. “Her husband is Austrian too but they met in London,” Love explains. “So both of their kids are technically Austrian despite being raised here. What will Brexit mean for a family like that?”
Spending 45 minutes to an hour with each person, Love shot the portraits in people’s homes or places of work using a Hassleblad, choosing to use film and natural light instead of the digital camera he uses for his regular commercial work. Taking one roll of film to each shoot, he wanted the photographs to feel natural.
“The advantage of film is that you don’t overshoot,” says Love. “Also, neither you nor the subject are distracted by the screen on the back of a camera. There ends up being a better relationship between the photographer and sitter. They just have to relax and trust you to portray them in a way that’s comfortable.”
Using social media and contacts through friends, Love has made a point of getting at least one person from every EU country. It speaks to the relevance of the project, and to its resonance with UK-based EU citizens that he was quickly inundated with people who wanted to get involved.
“The original idea was to have 27 portraits, one for each country,” he explains. “But then more and more people starting contacting me and I ended up with 80, which I’ve since edited down to 60. Luxembourg and Malta were the only difficult countries to find someone from…”
He hopes that The Europeans will go on display in some public space “with a lot of footfall”, where as many passersby as possible can engage with the collection and its message.
“Part of what has fuelled London as an international city is the exchange of people, ideas and knowledge between all of these countries,” he concludes. “I wanted to show that they are a real part of what makes London such an interesting and exciting city to live in.”
To find out more about The Europeans visit www.julianlove.com