Sara Furlanetto

University: London College of Communication

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Contemporary Documentary

Websitewww.sarafurlanetto.com

Artist Statement: Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers. Many words, one fundamental common element: being humans with the will to self-determine their fate, after escaping different kinds of misery. Travelling between Italy, France and Germany in 2015-2016, I met people on the move at different stages of their journeys, arriving from the balkan or mediterranean route, yet all of them stuck in a limbo under geographical, legal, psychological and emotional terms. This project aims to give more space to their identities, strength and vulnerability together, challenging the mainstream media.

From the series Let Me Tell You

From the series Let Me Tell You

It wants to be an intimate encounter with the person behind the figures. I have taken the road of a purely human approach by developing it, and I have faith in the power of photography as a way to break down walls of hate and fear, stimulating genuine human interaction.

For these reasons the project features mostly portraits combined with writings or drawings that people left me upon request. 

Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I undertook a BA in Photojournalism and Documentary photography at the London College of Communication. (2013-2016)

From the series Let Me Tell You

From the series Let Me Tell You

What are some standout moments from your time at university? The most significant period of my time at university was the third and last year. The whole process of developing the idea of my final project, which for me was something more than just a uni project, was very challenging and constructive. I became aware of my personal limits at the time, I truly understood the importance and balance of organisation and improvisation. Despite most of the hard work and difficulties had to be dealt by myself only, the confrontation with my tutors, who went through all this at the beginning of their careers, their advices and guidance was also very important to me and helped building my confidence. 

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I think my work at the moment can be considered contemporary documentary photography, as I am still experimenting and knowing myself first of all, in relation to the themes I approach. I believe it's important for young photographers to feel free, not bound to categories, as these can sometimes become too tight and we feel like we have to stick to what we defined as being our genre. 

From the series Let Me Tell You

From the series Let Me Tell You

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I find myself approaching big contemporary issues affecting society but under a human perspective, therefore exploring and questioning myself about identity and belonging.

In the project Let me tell you I have been working on the topic of refugees and asylum seekers, but really wanting to put their individuality first of all, the struggle of their condition dictated by its uncertainty, that consequently challenges their sense of identity and home. 

When documenting the aftermath of the earthquake in central Italy, I (started to) observe what people and environment look like now that the balance is broken. Being displaced mostly on the seaside and feeling neglected by the government, people from the areas hit by the earthquake are grasping on their identity as inhabitants of the mountains. At the same time, the concept of home is put under discussion, first by men's action and then by nature's reaction. 

From the series Let Me Tell You

From the series Let Me Tell You

What are your thoughts or opinions on making work around migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers? Was it easy for you to make these images? I strongly believe we need now a new narrative to reach the audience in regards to the topic of people on the move. Luckily there are good example of photographers engaged in this way, but it unfortunately doesn't reach the mainstream media therefore the majority of people. What upsets me is that there are too many media professionals or wannabes who don't realise how damaging or counterproductive is their language.

For me, having clear in mind how I wanted my work to feel human, it wasn't difficult to approach the subjects. Of course I was intimated at the beginning, and I always bare in mind the journey, reasons and sufferings that people have gone through. But I also know they are persons, and as me they want to be treated and approached as such. Therefore it is all about respect, kindness and genuinity. What I didn't find easy was to keep my inner strength always high, as you load yourself with so many feelings and stories, but this is part of being a documentary photographer.  In different situations access was difficult to get as well, and involving women to be photographed was a challenge, too. In fact I am intentioned to soon continue working on the topic but focusing specifically on that angle. 

From the series Let Me Tell You

From the series Let Me Tell You

How did your degree in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography prepare you for making this work? Many elements contributed to prepare me for making this work. University wise, the guidance and experience of my tutors Roger Hutchings and Jocelyn Bain Hogg was relevant throughout the months. The course as a whole was not totally well structured, I could talk a lot about this but I won't do it here! So I have to say I have taken what I could from my experience in London and at university, the practice on building photo stories and the little-but properly taught-theory studies.  It was more about being in a certain environment, breath the engagement and creativity, the dialogue and discussion, the coexistence of thoughts, beliefs and life styles, that made me feel confident and free to follow my ideas. 

What do you hope for your viewer to learn from your series? With my work I wish to offer to the viewer a different glance, simple as empathy is, but not simplistic. I tries instead to convey the sense of complexity of the issue, ascribable to the complexity of levels every individual is made of, and which often the abstraction of numbers denies.  

What initially encouraged you to make this journey to create this body of work? What pushed me to start this work was a mix of factors. First of all, coming from a region of Italy where the sentiment towards immigrants is controversial, I wanted to spark some light on the issue. But mostly I wanted to know myself more about it, and going directly to the people, to those who are generallysubjected to media propaganda. Up until summer 2015, I hadn't seen much work done on refugees which really focused on them as individuals, therefore I thought it was urgent to do so. 

From the series Let Me Tell You

From the series Let Me Tell You

Is there anything you’d like to go back and do differently? Sometimes I felt like I needed more time: for myself to elaborate what I was experiencing, but also to organise work differently and try new strategies. Especially concerning women and having access to the context they are inserted, there's often a long bureaucratic iter to follow. But I'm thinking now of a new developing of the project which would focus specially on them, therefore I would have to move between all those boundaries.

You’re shooting out on location, on unfamiliar territory surrounded by people you don’t know; have you got any advice for approaching your subject? I received advice from photographers who worked on the topic before, either university tutors or friends. But really experience is what teaches you the best, and if you are sensitive you learn step by step what's the best way to approach the reality you want to document. 

How do you go about composing your images in this situation? Do you always consider the final outcome or are you more concerned about getting the shot? I guess it works in a way that you always have, at the back of your mind, the objectives you want to reach, in terms of style, elements, situations, etc.. and you try to get them. But-at least in my case I am always open to photograph according to how the situation presents itself, or how I feel. You collect material and then when going back to your shots, you link them and create/let the narrative come out.

From the series Let Me Tell You

From the series Let Me Tell You

Describe the conversation between your subject and yourself. What do you tell them about your work? How do you request a piece of writing or drawing? It's hard to describe a conversation with my subject, because it depends on how we come to meet. 

But generally I introduce myself explaining what I am doing, showing examples of my work (In calais this was particularly helpful because lots of people knew each other and they would trust more seeing friends in the pictures). Only if the person accepts to collaborate I then ask if they feel like leaving me something written or a drawing. 

What are your future plans? In the short future I am planning to start a master in Anthropology in Italy, while carrying on personal projects, focusing on women perspectives on the migration issue, as an example. 

There is also a big articulated project, which will see my involvement photographically, but we are at the first stages so I don't want to spoil it. Keep updated from my website and Instagram and you will know more in the next few months.