Idomeni, Fyrom border, June 5, 2015. Ayoub (18) from Afghanistan: “My whole family was killed when I was very young, so I grew up with my uncle. When I was eleven, he was killed too. I then fled to Iran, where I knew some friends. I have walked thousands of kilometres to get here and have used up three pairs of shoes. I only carry a sleeping bag, a few small belongings, something to drink, and something to eat. I must go to Europe, they must help us. In Afghanistan there is no security. Every day people die there.” From Idomeni migrants continue north into Macedonia. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II.

Documentary Photography as a Powerful Form of Social Activism

In 2015 alone more than one million refugees and migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty across the Middle East and Africa entered into Europe. This has provoked an immigration crisis as European countries attempt to cope with the influx of people. For many of us, this may be just an abstract concept discussed by news outlets, but the aim of the upcoming dialogue series, entitled The Migration Crisis in Europe Through Images, hosted by La Pietra Dialogues, is to present the crisis through the lens of documentary photography and to put human faces on the issue. Three visiting photographers have traced the long, and often dangerous, journey of the people who brave many miles and obstacles to actualize their GOAL OF of reaching safe sanctuary. They will talk about their work and share their experiences with students and other guests.

The first speaker, Rocco Rorandelli, began with documentary photography after his doctoral studies in biology, which helped to influence his interest in global, social, and environmental issues. His work has been presented in awareness campaigns run by both intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, as well as certain international magazines such as Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. Rorandelli wanted to try a new approach to documenting the migrants’ journey, so he turned to aerial photography in an attempt to portray the crisis as a phenomenon rather than to tell the stories of individuals. This dialogue, The Refugee Trail, is taking place in Villa Sassetti on February 11th at 6:00 pm.

The next speaker in the series is Alessandro Penso who has spent his photography career deeply committed to social issues. His portfolio includes work on the conditions of detention centers in Malta, migrant workers in the agricultural sector of the Italian South, and, most recently, the immigration issue in the Mediterranean. Penso is acutely aware that complicated economic and social conditions in the Mediterranean region provide an environment where for cultural closure, xenophobia and violence can exist. He has won several awards for his photos, including TIME Magazine’s Pick for Photo Story of the Year. Penso’s dialogue, Lost Generation, will be on April 18th at 6:00 pm in Villa Sassetti.

The last speaker of the series is Henk Wildschut, a Dutch photographer whose work is often distant and contemplative in nature. This is meant to create an image of monumentality and balance and to provoke further contemplation upon the part of the viewer. His work has been displayed all over the world, as well as in Dutch and international magazines. In 2005, Wildschut began a project focused on European immigration. This resulted in both a film and an award-winning book. After taking on various other projects, Wildschut has returned to the subject of immigration by focusing on a refugee camp in Calais. This work will result in an exhibit at the museum Foam in Amsterdam in 2016. His dialogue, entitled Shelter, will take place on April 27th at 6:00 pm in Villa Sassetti.

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