A picture really is worth a thousand words. Take three European cities—including Prague—find 30 foreigners ready to document their daily lives with a disposable camera and you have the recipe for a fascinating exhibition.
Whatever the highs and lows of living abroad might be, being from elsewhere gives you a distinct perspective on your adopted homeland. A new international photographic exhibition, Migrant Visions, aims to share this outside viewpoint with a wider public by showcasing a series of images taken by foreigners living in three distinctly different European cities: Cluj, Munich, and Prague. Having already been exhibited in Romania, the 90 photos are now on display in the Czech capital at the National Technical Library until June 29.
Migrant Visions may occupy a modest space in the building’s foyer but it has a mighty aim—to promote cross-cultural understanding by offering a personalized insight into the daily lives of migrants from a range of ages and social backgrounds. Participants include a hospital cleaner, an economist, a scientific researcher, and a number of schoolchildren. Those involved were given a disposable camera and asked to capture on film anything in their surroundings that connected to the themes of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
The results are as diverse as the people who shot them—there are closed doors, wide open spaces, graffiti, self-portraits, and derelict buildings—but browse the images and the accompanying biographies and try not to be just as struck by the sheer variety of details the photographers have chosen to hone in on. Given that the pictures were all taken with a disposable camera, their quality is, on the whole, remarkably good. The occasional out-of-focus shot adds character and authenticity to what is, after all, a heterogeneous collection of real-life outsider art.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, there’s no one easily digestible message on offer here: It’s left up to you as a viewer to interpret the significance of the pictures just as it was left up to those taking them to decide how to reflect the topic they were given. Observe carefully though and you will uncover interesting connections. For example, two adjacent photos taken in different countries look so similar they could depict the same city.
At the opening, I was just as keen to discover what the Czechs present made of the exhibition as I was to consume the free wine. “The basic idea is so simple that I thought it couldn’t work,” confessed attendee Jakub Hauser. “However, once I looked through the pictures here tonight I realized I was wrong.”
Another exhibit-goer, Kristyna Zaková, praised the images for shedding fresh light on her home city: “I like the way that the photos aren’t just of the tourist sites but of the less obvious corners.”
The exhibition’s broader social aims were also acknowledged and applauded. “Czechs don’t always interact with foreigners so much,” observed attendee Adéla Kremplová. “This might help us to realize it isn’t only our land.”
The hope that Migrant Visions will inspire intercultural dialogue is one that is cherished by Eliška Zaková, one of the organizers behind Migrant Visions:
“I believe that sharing different perspectives and showing what we care for can bring people closer together, it can be a way to start a dialogue and break existing prejudice. Some of the photographs in the exhibition are very personal, showing the homes or work places of their authors, and that’s where I hope people to find a connection with their own lives.