When I left my country and moved to Europe, among the things that I took with me were my photo albums and my film camera. For some reason, I felt like I needed those items for the adventure that was about to unfold. Almost twenty years later, I reflect on that moment when I was packing my bag and I finally understand the reasoning behind this peculiar packing list. I must have known back then that I was never coming back, and I must have wanted to take with me the treasured memories from my life in my country and the tool that would help me create new memories in my new home.
Migrating is not easy. You need to have courage, a strong determination, a humble heart and an open mind. Venturing into the unknown leaving behind everything that you know and love is not for the faint of heart, and arriving at your new destination willing to unlearn what you know about the world and assimilate and adapt to a new way of living takes a unique set of skills. This is if you are privileged enough to emigrate of your own will. Those who are forced out of their countries by conflicts, starvation or just because they want to provide a better future for their families should be our real heroes.
Immigrants are brave people. If you are an immigrant yourself or come from a family of immigrants, you should be proud of your heritage. It is not easy to move to a different country. If society knew the things that we go through and the things that we put up with, immigrants would have a completely different reputation these days. The word immigrant itself has gotten such a bad name that we had to come up with alternative terms to describe immigrants who we consider our equal or who we admire. But, the truth is that your Founding Mothers and Fathers were immigrants; your favourite sports team members from abroad are immigrants; even those who we call Expats are immigrants too. It doesn't matter what fancy name you use to describe your status, if you moved to a different country than the one you were born in, you are an immigrant.
I am an immigrant, and I am the son and the grandson of immigrants too. I say it with pride and with my head held high because there is nothing wrong with being an immigrant and I am tired of seeing this term used in a derogatory way. This is the reason why, a few days ago, I took part on Almudena Romero's photography project on immigrants in the UK called Growing Concerns. This project is a beautiful endeavour that deserves the utmost praise, not only because of the technique used to create each portrait but also because of the beautiful message behind it.
Almudena Romero is a London based visual artist from Madrid working with a wide range of photographic processes from early printing techniques such as cyanotype, salt printing or wet plate collodion, to new technologies including 3Dscanning and printing. Her practice uses photographic processes to reflect on issues relating to identity, representation and ideology; such as the role of photography in the construction of national identity, or the link between photographic archives and colonialism. Her work focuses on how photographic processes and technology transform the notions of public, private, individuality, identity, memory, and, in general, the concept of the individual.
Growing Concerns consists of a series of passport tintypes of London immigrants to reflect on the increasing restrictions of movement for persons and the reduction of regulatory barriers for goods and capitals. Almudena uses the wet collodion technique, which was the most popular photographic process between 1850 and 1880. It was the cheapest and most light-sensitive technique, but its most distinctive characteristic was that it allowed the first glass negatives, and therefore, the reproduction of images in prints from one same negative.
If you want to learn more about Almudena Romero, her project Growing Concerns and the wet collodion technique, visit her website at www.almudenaromero.co.uk.
Photo: wet collodion tintype portrait by Almudena Romero, as part of her project Growing Concerns
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