Aperture is pleased to present a new limited-edition photograph by Samuel Gratacap, whose work was featured in Aperture issue 222, “Odyssey.” This image is part of Gratacap’s series Empire(2012–14). For nine years, the thirty-two-year-old French photographer has followed the lives of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean, documenting moments of departure—and the emotions of waiting—at sites including the Italian island of Lampedusa and a detention center in Marseille, France. At its peak of operation, the transit camp at Choucha, Tunisia, where Empire is set, received upward of two hundred thousand migrants, many fleeing the crisis in neighboring Libya and others escaping conflicts in West Africa and Southeast Asia.
As Bronwyn Law-Viljoen writes in Aperture: “Empire is part of Gratacap’s long investigation into the Mediterranean migration crisis. Begun in 2007, it encompasses interviews, community involvement, filmmaking, the collection of ephemera, and, finally, photography. This immersion is reflected in the photographs: they suggest at once a respectful distance and a desire for a slender connection, achieved through acute observation of gestures.” Gratacap’s intimate, personal scenes from North Africa reveal how individuals occupy their time while awaiting passage to Europe. Here, in this photograph, in an uncertain transit zone where people seek a new identity, one man finds only a partial reflection of a life lived elsewhere.
“My work,” Gratacap says, “is about these territories of movement: the border crossings, the waiting zones for daily workers, the prison, as well as the places related to the ‘rest’ of the body, the paths toward a newfound identity. How does it feel when one person is, at the same time, not feeling at home and not being accepted as a foreigner? How does the body ‘store’ both the rootlessness and the rejection?”
Samuel Gratacap (b. 1982, lives between Paris and Tunis) has exhibited his work in several group and solo shows, including a solo exhibition of Empire at LE BAL, Paris, in 2015. His work is currently featured in the Athens Photo Festival at the Benaki Museum through July 31, 2016. Gratacap is represented by Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, Paris.
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