Christophe Husson is a French photographer, currently based in Amsterdam. In the Dutch capital, his exhibition entitled “No Land For Love” has recently opened at the OBA Library.
With the invaluable help of the producer Andrea Wainer, the exhibition becomes a way to talk about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees, trying to deconstruct prejudices and increase people’s awareness. The photographer was a guest of the second installment of Shifting Scenes, an event organized by 31mag, dedicated to the lacerating conflicts that involve those who are forced to flee from their own country. At the end of the screenings we had the opportunity to speak with him directly in order for him to explain his project in detail.
Husson has been focusing on the issue of LGBTQ + asylum seekers and refugees for a few years, starting when he was still in Marseille. He knew very little about the topic, but he was not the only one since it is an often overlooked topic. In general, most people don’t care enough to talk about this topic because they believe that it is something that does not directly involve them. “Actually, we realized that you don’t have to travel too far to be faced with a situation like this. Just turn the corner or walk a hundred meters from your front door “. And this statement is even truer when refering to Marseilles, where the LGBTQ + refugee community is very large.
Working in a non-profit association, the photographer had the opportunity to meet a boy, a moment that changed everything. Although at first glance he seemed like everyone else, the young man kept within himself the weight of an unspeakable past.
From there it all began. “My work comes from a personal desire: to know people and their experiences, to present them with a different perspective“. Each with different origins and needs, but with a pasts that inevitably intertwine. Husson thus uses his photography as a bridge between the public and the main characters of his images.
The pictures are all in black and white, a choice that at the beginning seemed rather old-fashioned, but that in the end turned out to be the most logical for the themes of his photographic researches. The only code is the beauty, without any glamor appeal. “My first intention was to avoid the boundaries. I refused any kind of stereotype, because in my mind the exhibition had to be able to be displayed in any public spaces: from a school to a library. The only thing that mattered was to offer a portrait of a person, regardless of what he or she had lived before“.
The observer has in front of him different subjects, broader than in the reality. In this way all those details that we are not typically noticed suddenly become clear. The author pushes the viewer to get involved, regardless of a distracted look in an attempt to capture as much as possible from a black and white portraits. “The important thing was that subjects speak for themselves,” adds Husson. Individuals thus become the absolute protagonists to which the photographer, as a sort of invisible director, delivers to the word.
Each image is marked by a caption, which can be an affirmation, a desire or a memory. These are not random texts, but expressions directly connected with the people of Husson’s shots. If the communicative power of the images was not enough, the biographical story became the missing element of the puzzle. “However we eventually decided not to publish their stories. There are two reasons that can explain this choice. First of all because there could be many lies. But above all we want to respect these people. Many women are trying to build a new life. Remembering the tragic past would have had only negative effects“.
Sensitivity, style and truth. In the words of Husson, all these values shine through. It is therefore not surprising that the same features materialize in his exhibition. His photography takes on new meanings, which come to light from the expression of the faces, enhanced by colors and contexts of representation. The protagonists are young people from all over the world, young people who have much to say, and who do not deserve to be labeled by their history. “In the photographic art they have seen an outburst. The boys understood that they could speak freely, because no one would judge them. Despite themselves, they are stuck in social cages in everyday life. This exhibition was a sort of way out “. According to the photographer’s opinion, the LGBTQ + refugee community living in the Netherlands is very lucky, at least compared to the rest of Europe.
However, the difficulty of those people coming from a very different cultural and political contexts still remains. For example, we can think about of all those LGBTQ + asylum seekers arriving from Africa or from Syria. They came to Europe poor and alone, coming from a past that has marked them indelibly. In the new continent the labels change, seemingly disclosing greater freedom of expression. The same foundations encourage them to express what they really are, so that a sense of repression is no longer felt. “But it is not really so.” Husson continues. “The same fact of these people try to push asylum seekers to dress differently and be noticed does not mean fighting prejudice, but strengthening it. Refugees are a minority and, as such, they are urged to create a different universe, built on a common style and vocabulary within the community. And this system make them more vulnerable in the European context, because citizens easily identify them. We could say that it leads to a sort of double prejudice”.
It’s hard to survive this way, it’s hard to keep fighting. It really seems that there is no place for love in such a cruel reality. In spite of this, Husson never stopped dreaming. He dreams about a disenchanted gaze on the world, free from all conditioning, in which people can be simply people.