Social Justice: Asylum Seekers

An exhibition of photographs by Anita Smith
The Baltic Creative CIC, 22 Jordan St, Liverpool 1
Till 30th June 2011

Reviewed by Gayna Rose Madder

The Gallery Liverpool celebrates a recent partnership with the Baltic Creative CIC by showing a new photographic exhibition, 'Social Justice: Asylum Seekers' by Anita Smith. Coinciding with the International Photographic Festival Look2011, this is one of three shows curated by Fiona Dunn of The Gallery Liverpool, who states that the images shown here are intended to make the viewer set aside prejudices and assumptions, and to look at justice from another angle.

Fiona says: 'The moment I saw (these photographs), I felt that they embodied exactly the spirit of this year's theme in Liverpool: 'City of Radicals & Social Justice'.

From the viewpoint of relatively comfortable western lives, it would easy to dismiss the majority of asylum seekers as trouble-makers from extremist religious or political groups, economic migrants, or those in search of a more easy-going society. These photographs bring the individual, human side of the situation into much clearer focus, inviting the viewer t into a greater depth of understanding.

Anita says: 'During my research I was struck by the huge numbers of people who need help. There are daily queues outside Reliance House in the city centre, of asylum seekers waiting to put their cases to the Home Office'. (One of the photographs features this). 'Each person has a story to tell of past fear and future hope; each has an underlying sadness that can be seen in their eyes. Many are just existing from day to day and sleeping rough until they can find somewhere safe to live.'

The artist relates that some of the photographs were taken because she was 'in the right place at the right time', including the view of the Liver Building. One day after speaking to Asylum Link Merseyside about why people become refugees in this city, she was passing by as those pictured happened to be there, and sought permission to photograph them. This is an issue as many in this position have reason to be fearful about their images being shown or transmitted in public or via internet: some have fled for their lives, and publicity could endanger them or their families.

For this reason, the striking image ' Imprisoned for beliefs' (right), drawing attention to those who have previously been detained for reasons of sexuality, political ideology or religion, is cropped so it does not show the person's face. Also 'Destitute and alone' (top), featuring someone who had slept on a box in the street for three days, is not identifiable. It would be too much of a risk.

Anita quotes the definition of an Asylum Seeker from the Collins English Dictionary: 'a person who from fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group or political opinion, has crossed an international frontier into a country in which he or she hopes to be granted refugee status.'

This is a difficult series of images to view, but is worth visiting as it offers a sympathetic, insightful perspective to an often misunderstood, and ever-growing, group of disenfranchised people.

Anita cites as an influence in this work London-born photojournalist Don McCullin, well- known for his war photography and images of urban troubles, whose work she first studied at college.

Her other work contrasts strongly, featuring graceful images of landscapes, which have sold widely through galleries and events. A landscape photographer she admires is Dorset-born Charlie Waite.

She says: 'His landscapes and architectural detail give you a feeling of peace and tranquillity and several people have said that my landscapes also have that quality.' She says that what motivates her is being outside in wide open spaces: the coast, sea, countryside, good light and sunsets.

So this exhibition is a departure in demonstrating the claustrophobic life of those who are not free.

Anita studied photography after working for several years in the printing and advertising industries.

For the last 11 years she has worked as a commercial photographer, with clients throughout the UK.

She has exhibited in Liverpool, London and Edinburgh at the Stills Gallery and Open Eye, and also at several local exhibitions including the Albert Dock, The Gallery Liverpool and Blackburne House. For the last 8 years has also run an online gallery/ shop for local artists and photographers.

Online gallery:
Tel: 0151 252 1203
Mob: 07905 198 507

Opening times are by appointment. Office 0151 703 2005; Centre Manager: Mark Lawler 07984 433257. Contact times Mon – Fri 9-5pm.

The Baltic Creative CIC is an ERDF and NWDA Funded Landlord established in 2009 to provide creative space that meets the changing needs of the creative and digital sector. It is a stakeholder
in the regeneration of the Baltic Triangle. Baltic are working with Look2011 to site 3 x 20ft photo / Gallery Containers on the vacant land next door to 43 Jordan St. For more information call Mark
Lawler (Centre Manager) 07984 433257 or Fiona 07791 522297.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by dazza on 20th June, 2011 at 11:13
I wnent to see the exhibition after reading this review. But it was sunday and half of the galleries where closed. So will deffo go back. The rest of the exhibition is brill