Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura


Alan uses a camera obscura to photograph migrants in Europe, who are rendered invisible by their unresolved immigration status and the EU’s inability to decide upon a cooperative and coordinated response to the migrant crisis

The camera obscura is a centuries-old technique that here leaves the person obscured, while the background remains in clear focus. 


Using a camera obscura, Alan has photographed migrants who appear as blurry figures against European urban environments that remain clearly in focus. By using this creative approach, he seeks to draw attention to the individual human beings suffering as a result of a “not in my back yard” mentality among EU member states.

Desperate to escape wars, political oppression, the effects of global warming or extreme poverty in their native lands, migrants have been entering Europe in significant numbers in recent years.  Often, European nations bear some responsibility for the circumstances that have devastated these people’s lives.

The EU has failed to agree a coordinated response to the migrant crisis.  In the absence of legal modes of entry into the bloc, migrants are forced to resort to life threatening journeys, often at the hands of unscrupulous human traffickers. 

The bloc has no system through which member states can share responsibility for hosting migrants in a fair manner.  As a result, they quarrel with one another over which of them should host the asylum seekers and other migrants. 

The lack of cooperation within the bloc and with third parties is causing unacceptable loss of life, distress to asylum seekers trapped in limbo while they wait for a resolution of their immigration status, and political instability within member states. 

The camera obscura method that Alan is using is difficult to control, introducing an element of chance into the creative process that corresponds to the refugees’ uncertain circumstances.  The images are recorded on film, so that the outcome is unknown, just as the individuals cannot know what the future holds for them.


Obscura is produced in collaboration with Platforma, the Arts and Refugees Network.

Alan has travelled to Calais and Vienna and will continue to document refugees in other European cities.