On 23 June 2016, the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union. The break-up has been far from harmonious and, almost two years since the referendum, the exact ramifications of Brexit remain unclear.
Separation, a portrait series by Laura Pannack, explores this uncertainty on a human level. Commissioned by British Journal of Photography and created with Affinity Photo for iPad, the series captures the angst and myriad emotions experienced by London-based creative couples who, as a result of Brexit, have been forced to contemplate separation. Brexit has long garnered column inches for its political implications but what does it mean for love?
Of the couples that feature in Separation, one half of each is British and the other has moved to the UK from elsewhere in Europe. At least one works in London’s creative sector, a diverse and thriving industry that has long been a draw for Europeans moving to the capital. The subjects of Separation are real couples who, at the hands of Brexit, face an uncertain future. Emotion therefore exists at the core of Pannack’s portraits.
Nadia and Paul
Photographer, tattoo artist
“In a world already so divided, the idea of Britain going at it alone does not seem right”
Nadia is Italian and Paul is British. They met while living in a house share in Cheltenham. In May 2017, along with Rodrigo the cat, Nadia and Paul embarked on a new adventure and moved to London. “That little town was not enough anymore,” says Nadia. “As individuals, and as a couple, we wanted the excitement of a challenge that we could experience together. We needed to get out of our routines and feel inspired. Where better than London? It is a city that is full of vibrancy and inspiration.”
Nadia: I had a view of Britain as a multi-cultural melting pot that accepts everyone and embraces difference. When the referendum result was announced, it was clear that the reality is very different. I am sad that this nice country, one that once accepted the world, is closing its doors, but at the same time I don’t feel pushed away by the vote. Brexit means that Paul will need to marry me so I can stay in the UK.
Paul: I voted Remain. In a world already so divided, the idea of Britain going at it alone does not seem right. The referendum result was a surprise for me. After living in the UK my whole life, and growing up surrounded by a mixture of cultures, I am open to the world and what it means to have cultural differences. I hope that the decision to leave the European Union was not just about immigration and border control.
Jerry and Helena
Professional drummer, waitress and receptionist
“Jerry has always been aware of a strong animosity towards himself and other immigrants”
Jerry is Polish and Helena is British. The couple met at a metal concert in Camden. “One night my jacket got stolen with my money and Oyster card inside,” says Helena. “Jerry, being lovely, leant me a hoodie and his spare Oyster card and made sure I got home safe. We lived in the same direction from Camden and got into the habit of sharing a bus ride home.” Helena and Jerry have been living as a couple in London for one year.
Helena: Jerry has always been aware of a strong animosity towards himself and other immigrants. Although I was aware of these attitudes, they were not something that I had been personally confronted with. Since the Brexit vote, I have witnessed more discrimination, including one personal experience. I was shocked by the result of the EU referendum but, based on his experiences of British attitudes, Jerry was not at all surprised. Brexit has not and will not affect our relationship, although it has changed our view of the UK. We will consider leaving if it brings about certain changes such as the inhibition of free movement.
Jana and Luke
Editorial administrator, software engineer
“After the referendum we thought a lot about relocating our family to Germany, and we still do. Although the UK is our home, the uncertainty makes us consider a move”
Luke is British and Jana is German. The couple met in 2002 in Nicaragua while travelling across Latin America. Fifteen years later, with two children and wedding rings on their fingers, travelling remains a shared passion. They moved from Leeds to London nine years ago and currently live in Islington with their two young daughters Lyra and Saoirse.
Jana: We love London. Despite being financially squeezed, we managed to buy a small two bedroom flat in Islington. It is is our home and gives us everything we need to live a happy life in London. We are part of the local community and have made many friends. Our daughters are going to nursery and school here and we don’t really want to move.
After the referendum we thought a lot about relocating our family to Germany, and we still do. Although the UK is our home, the uncertainty, not only with my status, but also with the UK economy, has made us consider a move. There is so much instability in the UK and a lot of stability in Germany. Our lives there would be more predictable and more secure. Our German community has also shrunken drastically. Out of the eight local families we used to meet regularly, six have moved back to Germany. This is not all down to Brexit but it was definitely a contributing factor. Britain’s future out of the EU will be bleak; I can already feel it crumbling around me.
Credits. Photographer: Laura Pannack. Assistant: Jacob Schühle Lewis. Junior assistant: James Greenhalgh. Editorial and art direction: Anya Lawrence. Set: Karina Valentim. Studio: Street Studios. Equipment hire: Direct Photographic. Equipment: Affinity Photo for iPad.
Separation is a British Journal of Photography commission created with Affinity Photo for iPad, Apple’s App of the Year 2017. Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.