University of Glasgow project helps capture migrant stories on camera
They couldn’t be more different in what they capture.
However, a series of photographs now showing in an online exhibition are linked by a history born of necessity and a hope for a better life.
The images capture people at work as business people, farmers and construction workers, with their families at major family events like birthdays and graduations or celebrating their country’s culture and heritage.
What ties them together is the photos capture what is means today to be a Mexican migrant living abroad.
The University of Glasgow’s Dr Nathanial Gardner in partnership with the Mexican government agency SEZAMI (Secretaría Zacatecano del Migrante) launched a pilot photography competition to allow migrant stories to be heard and seen.
SEZAMI is based in the state of Zacatecas in North-Central Mexico, which is a state deeply affected by migration as it is estimated its population of 1.5 million is matched by Zacatecans in Amercia.
Dr Gardner’s research investigates how photography can counter the ‘invisibility’ of marginalised groups has helped shape inclusion activities of SEZAMI, that has supported migrants from and back to the region since 1999.
Dr Nathanial Gardner, Senior Lecturer in Spanish at the University of Glasgow’s School of Modern Languages and Cultures, said: “This project is all about hearing the other side of the story. Most of the time, people who have never experienced migration tell us about migrants and the lives they live.
“The SEZAMI and I have teamed up to help migrants share their own experience from their personal point of view.”
A spokesperson for SEZAMI said: “This project has generated important new interest. We have been working with migrants for some time, and with this new project we have seen people participate in our programmes now that had not done so before. We are really happy with this project and its results so far. “
The winner of the competition is Laura Garcia Huerta. She left Mexico more than 20 years ago and now lives in Atlanta Georgia in the USA. Her images capture life in the United States as a migrant including images of Mexicans at work and celebrating their own culture.
Ms Garcia Huerta, who is visiting Scotland this week as part of her competition win, said: “Participating in this competition has changed my opinion of migration. It has made me reflect upon this phenomenon more generally. The phenomena of migration have been around for millennia. We must leave our comfort zone to find the right place to move forward in life. My migratory travels have allowed me to go somewhere new and find safety, both economic and social safely.”
Speaking about her winning photograph, which shows two people embracing, she said: “The help that the SEZAMI gives to migrants including financial support enables travel so that families who have been separated by migration can come together again (as is seen in my winning photograph). This is one of the most beautiful things that I try to capture in my photography on migration. This reuniting of families who have been divided by migration is a beautiful thing that inspires hope.”
SEZAMI (Secretaría Zacatecano del Migrante)
SEZAMI is a Mexican government body, based in the state of Zacatecas, a state deeply affected by migration as it is estimated its population of 1.5 million is matched by Zacatecans in the USA. Since 1999, SEZAMI has worked with migrant communities in Mexico and the United States, including legal and other support for repatriated communities in Mexico and the United States, including legal and other support for repatriated and deported individuals back in Mexico, as well as fostering integration and inclusion for the migrants.
Due to Covid-19 global pandemic the final report on the impact of the project and photography competition had to be postponed. In the meantime, until it can be launched in person, the exhibition has been made available online - Photography Exhibition.
First published: 4 May 2022