Yesterday we called in to look around an exhibition in Hull Library called The Stranger’s Tale by Quentin Budworth. It included photographs of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers, their stories and volunteers at Open Doors, an organisation that supports them.
The exhibition is part of an ongoing project called Untold Stories that tells the stories of ordinary people in Hull in the run up to the City of Culture.
The photographs were of individuals with various illustrations relating to them or their country of origin photoshop’d in the background. The photos themselves were quite interesting although some of the photoshop work could have been a bit better.
The accompanying stories were printed at the same size as the photographs and took quite a long time to read. So long in fact that I gave up reading them part way round the room. Most of the stories were from very genuine people who were escaping real danger and looking for a safer life. A few however left me a little disturbed they were from men who had left Syria and Iran because it was too dangerous for them to stay there. They seemed to be quite content to leave their wives and children behind in such a dangerous place though. Another man had left China because of the one child rule, his wife was too ill to go through the sterilisation operation and because he didn’t want to be sterilised himself he had run away to England. Apart from their appalling attitude towards women, I was most disturbed that each of these men had been granted leave to stay in the UK.
The exhibition was certainly thought provoking and started a good discussion. I’m not sure how much benefit the project is or how much it might contribute to ill feelings towards asylum seekers. When I asked Quentin Budworth about his view on this he was very quick to say that it wasn’t for him to put a spin on the exhibition. He just took the photographs, told the stories and allowed us to make our own mind up.
Budworth told us that the project began back in April. It is only in recent weeks that the topic has become so hot and at the beginning he took the decision to simply tell the stories. He likes the idea of narrative with imagery. The long texts were written, often without names as people wanted to remain anonymous. The short text underneath the photographs was from spoken interviews, some remaining very short as they were happy to have their photograph taken but didn’t want to give much information away.
The images used in the background of the photographs came from a variety of sources including wiki commons. The photographs and long texts were printed by Scribes and mounted on foamex. Budworth had distributed leaflets himself and through the local libraries as well as setting up a dedicated website, facebook and twitter accounts to accompany the exhibition.
When asked about how he makes a living Budworth explained that he received some funding for this project although there was limited profit within the funding. He took this on because he wanted to do something to support Open Doors. When pressed further he was very adamant to say that he would never give his services away for free. He is an artist and if someone came to him and commissioned him to do something he would expect to be paid fairly whether they were a charity or not, otherwise he would not accept the commission.
Budworth went on to tell explain a little about his next project Chavocracy which sounds a lot more fun.