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Facing Prejudice - Documentary Photography Defaced

This series of photographs is the result of an act of vandalism on an exhibition of portraits of refugees seeking asylum in Switzerland.

Initially, the paper photos were pasted on a square in Geneva by the refugees themselves as part of an anti-racism week. However, they were damaged overnight and had to be taken down – but not before they were re-photographed. This is a kind of re-witnessing of the refugee experience, producing a new series of photos which are more complex and more challenging than the originals.

In this photo series, which in one sense is purely documentary but in another entirely personal, Mark Henleyexternal link – twice named Swiss Press Photographer of the Year - subtly captures the resistance and pressures these often vulnerable individuals seeking asylum face. In February 2017, it received an “Award of Excellence” in the US Pictures of the Year competition.

The original series of portraits, featuring refugees from countries as diverse as Togo, Mali, Guinea, Ghana, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Algeria, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Syria, was produced in cooperation with French artist JR’s Inside Out project and the General Hospice in Geneva, which is charged with social responsibility for refugees in the canton. 

All images and text by Mark Henley.

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