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Thursday, 9 February 2017

British Photographic Culture: Made by Europeans?

pictures by Mimi Mollica

Here in the UK we are very quickly approaching a Brexit. We're in the process of leaving Europe has started and there really isn't that much opposition to it at a political level. The Labour Party, our main opposition party, is voting for it with the government (except for the 50 MPS who opposed their leader) - part of a tradition where the opposition votes with the government on policies they are supposed to be against. They voted for government benefit cuts a couple of years ago. This is in keeping with that dumbass decision.

The idea that because of the Brexit vote, the people have decided and we should all shut up and get on with life is laughable.

This decision determines where I can live, where I can get health care, where I can travel.

It determines where my non-British friends can live and raises the possibility of them being forced to leave a country they call home.

It determines where my daughter can live, or get an education - already her opportunities have been shut down completely. She won't be able to study in Europe on the much cheaper courses that have been opening up. The UK will be her only simple option.

On top of that, the decision has caused such a huge amount of heartache, anguish and stress to people who are at the knuckle end of Brexit, for whom it really matters, it is heartbreaking.

The idea that people should stop talking about it and accept the decision of a slender majority of voters (and a massive minority of the British people) is laughable, is contemptible and is selective and anti-democratic. You fight for what's right, not what the Daily Mail and anti-Europe political leaders decide. The selfishness of the arseholes, of the two main parties, who say it's the will of the people is despicable,

Keep on complaining. Keep on being a noisy bastard. Keep on lettiing people know what the real human costs of Brexit are. Never shut up!

That's not being melodramatic, that's being realistic. These are headlines that you get every day in the UK in newspapers like the Daily Mail. These headlines lead to racist attacks, discrimination, abuse andheartbreak for people who imagine the UK to be their home.

And they apply to everyone who is a migrant (and not just a refugee) here. My wife is a migrant, her parents were refugees, my mother is a migrant, I've been a migrant. It's life itself. Why the fuck should I, or anybody who supports and has lived by migration, shut up because somebody tells me to. How anti-democratic, how narrow-minded, how closed!

Why should anyone support a decision that was fomented by racist in politics and the press, and enabled by feeble political leaderships. I don't support the totality of these headlines below and it doesn't matter to me, or anybody I respect, if 52%, 60%, 80%, 90% support these sentiments. Humanity, principles and belief in a world that goes beyond the market come above 52% I'm afraid!

There has been an increase in racism since the Brexit vote. I know people who, within days of the Brexit vote, experienced it for the first time. And every post-open borders European migrant I know experienced a huge amount of anxiety because of the vote.

That abuse and the possibility that people who have lived here half their life, or all their life, might not be able to live here any more is not unthinkable. In the past, British People would get deported from the Netherlands because they were looking for work. I remember hitching through Germany and getting checked for how much money I had. It's not long ago and it was in a far friendlier time.

So although it might seem a long way off (and how distant did Brexit and Trump and Theresa May seem a year ago), the possibilities are very real. And should be confronted. So don't shut up.

One of the most upsetting parts of all this from a UK point of view is the number of European (and other nationalities) photography professionals we have in the UK. Not only do they add to our visual understanding of Britain, they also add hugely to the photographic and visual culture of the country. They break through some of the barriers we little-britishers create for ourselves and get things done simply by getting things done. And when they go, those things don't get done. European migrants to Britain create culture and that culture is lost when they go. Or even when they don't come.

In Bristol we have people like Alejandro Acin and  Rudi Thoemmes, In Cardiff, people like Maciej Dakowicz, Joni Karanka, and Bartosz Nowicki set up the Third Floor Gallery, in Bristol there's Rudi Thoemmes and Alejandro Acin who set up IC Visual Labs. If you saw Juno Calypso speak there a couple of weeks ago, or are going to see Rob Hornstra tomorrow night, you have Alex to thank.

Then there's Federicca Chiocchetti, Bruno Ceschel, Federica Seravalle, Philipp Ebeling. Luca Desienna, Mimi Mollica - all of whom have enlivened and enervated British, European and global photography from these shores. And there are many, many more.

I think there are a few people who are more comfortable without the competition to be honest, because they do sometimes show us up. What is it they do that we don't do. And if you're open-minded and honest with yourself, you extend that to what can I learn from their approach? And generally it's something to do with drive and not caring too much about what other people think or say - especially when it is a defence mechanism against British snobbery, laziness and complacency.

So hats off to everybody who has come to the UK from Europe and added to our culture, enriched our culture.

And if you're in the UK, support them by attending their events or buying the books or just showing that they are valued and you are not a see-you-next-tuesday who reads the Daily Mail.

You can do that by attending ICVL events (but Rob Hornstra is sold out tomorrow) or by buying books like Mimi Mollica's brilliant Terra Nostra.

It's launching tomorrow (but that's sold out as well I think) and you can buy it here.

Read Sean O'Hagan's Review here.

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