A Chat with a Photographer of Immigrant Workers

 

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On Monday February 25th,  Sara Jabbar-Allen, who is the photographer for the exhibit at the Dickinson Center, came to speak to us. The title of the talk was “The Making of “Travaillerus venus d’ailleurs” (Immigrants Workers).” Sara explained that she originally was interested in sociological studies, and then decided to enroll in photography school. Hence, she wanted to use her work as a way to counter stereotypes. She said that she is often not satisfied with the media portrayal of immigrants and wanted to dive deeper into the issue and show the evolution of their integration into French society. It was also an area of personal interest to her as she grew up in the Middle East in cosmopolitan society and explained that when she arrived in France, she was struck and disappointed by the portrait painted of immigrants. She worked with a team of journalists, historians, and another photographer on this project for 3 years, interviewing immigrants across the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.

What inspired me most about listening to Sara speak, was hearing about her and her team’s approach to documenting and journaling their work. They began the project with a lot of research, before they even headed off into the field. Once in the field, they would always interview people before photographing them, in order to learn about who they were and what their story was. After they had their interviews, they coded them into 5 major themes: migration, adaptation, work, identity, and generations. From here, they were able to organize their photo exhibit, book, DVD, and presentations. This set an incredible example for us, on how we may go about organizing our work as we continue through our travels, and also when we return to campus and dive into our independent study projects. Seeing Sara’s journals encouraged me to go deeper in my own journal, and write about anything and everything I observe, because it all comes full circle. Seeing her photos also inspired me to use more of a critical eye in my own snapping of pictures, and really try to use my knowledge on Mediterranean migrations as another lens with which to perceive. Sara’s work and expertise was a great lesson for us and helped us to start to envision our own projects.

Here is an excerpt from Sara’s work:

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