What's On > Coming or Going? - EU Londoners Contemplate their Future
The UK is home to around three million EU citizens. Many of them not only live here but also work and pay their taxes here, yet were not able to vote in the EU referendum. This project is an attempt to make their voices heard.
Stephen Bell and Jon Chater decided that visiting the home or workplace of EU citizens living and working in London would make a good starting point for a series of portraits. They approached people we already knew as well as contacts made through social media.
During each photo shoot they paused to conduct a short interview. The texts from these interviews accompany the photographs in the exhibition. They asked about what it's like to live and work in the UK, and how each person feels about Brexit. The interview was vital because it made their subjects consider how Brexit had affected them on an emotional level. As people answered their questions, they would watch carefully for gestures and expressions they could replicate when photographed them. The resulting portraits seem to display a range of emotions, from sadness and anxiety through to anger and defiance.
Stephen and Jon were keen to photograph people in their workplace because this tells the story of the huge contribution the EU workforce makes to the UK economy. Successive studies have quantified this contribution, showing it to be net – that is, EU workers pay far more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
According to recent figures, the number of nurses from EU countries registering to work in the National Health Service has fallen by 90 per cent since the referendum. So Brexit is already having a major impact on the NHS, implying future staff shortages that will affect the quality of care and could put lives at risk. For this reason they were particularly keen to photograph EU citizens who work in London’s hospitals.
They got in touch with a Portuguese nurse who works in Accident and Emergency at Royal London Hospital and two neurology doctors who work at St George's Hospital, in Tooting. While photographing them in the hospital’s corridors they realised that the corridor is a good metaphor for the uncertainty caused by Brexit. These are just some of the three million EU citizens in the UK whose future has been cast into doubt by this government. For now they are in transit, stuck in a corridor, uncertain of their final destination.
The exhibition will also feature work by Karim Baltagi. Karim’s street photographs explore London as a cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse bustling city. London today is a host to a multi-lingual and multi-cultural population that has helped shape its past and will shape its future.
Gallery Opening Times
Monday to Friday: 9am to 10pm
Weekend: 10am to 2pm
Coming or Going? - EU Londoners Contemplate their Future
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Derbyshire St, Bethnal Green, London E2 6HG, United Kingdom