“Brexit means Brexit,” was British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, initial motto after the EU referendum, that was only just the beginning of this new political landscape we find ourselves in today. We now have Donald Trump for President of the United States, and the far right rising all over Europe. In the midst of all this chaos, our society is now more divided than ever - with social media utilising algorithms that only selects news the user would prefer to see, rather than a diverse range of opinions. As a society, we are entering a dangerous era where we isolate ourselves from the ‘other’.
“Remain Calm & Leave” (current working title) is an ongoing photographic project that utilises a combination of visuals and quotations from politicians and British citizens to explore the division in British society as revealed by the 2016 EU referendum held in the United Kingdom.
This project started as a result of my interest in how and why Brexit came about - events like Brexit with such a high impact did not just come about, it has been a long build up of frustration, lack of change, the effects of globalisation and capitalism, it was decades of frustration for leavers. What my generation (18-24 year olds) fails to understand is how Brexit has become a reality, the history surrounding the referendum. It was not simply a vote on immigration, racist attitudes, or freedom of movement, for the people who voted to leave, this was a frustration vote.
However, as emotionally understanding as I can be for the leavers, it simply does not make sense to vote leave and gamble with the future of an entire country. Perhaps, as my generation say, it was selfish of pensioners to vote leave when they simply will not be around to see the changes this referendum will make. As such, it is this blame game that sets us back from progressing forwards, or creating a strong basis to have a proper dialogue.
Through my research, the one fact that reappears from time to time, is that not a majority of the population on either side of the argument have been to many places that voted the other way. Thus, I began shooting in select remain/leave places (where my budget would allow), to capture the essence of each area.
While the visuals alone began to create an image of what Brexit Britain looks like, it relied too heavily on the reader to understand the context of which the work was made; thus, I collected quotations from politicians and anonymous emails sent to myself. Only then, when the visuals were accompanied with text, did it begin to create a thorough understanding of the issue, while also eliciting an emotional response from the viewer. As such, I intend to create a photo book that documents this moment in time, and create empathy from the British public. While I certainly recognise that a photo book will not solve all our differences in opinions, it is my hope that this collection of quotations from both sides of the argument, of visuals from all over the country, can serve as a fresh starting point.
Upon constructive feedback, what I currently have is not enough to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience. With this grant, I will have the opportunity to explore and push this project further - as it already goes beyond traditional photojournalism, this more interpretative approach is a method I intend to explore further. Given the opportunity, I would be able to experiment and create a much stronger project that can create a valuable emotional experience for the reader. An experience that is of empathy, created through various quotations and visuals of places from either side of the argument.
This project is of great importance to myself. I am from Hong Kong, and at home, we are fighting for our democracy, for our vote to count. I have had the privilege to study in the United Kingdom these past three years, and throughout the duration of my course, I have gained a lot from this country, this is my way of giving back to this place I now call my second home.