Status

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Vera Zurbrügg

Status, 2016

Fig. 1: Photograph by Mojtaba, 2016

Vera Zurbrügg is a photographer from Basel, Switzerland. She recently graduated from Zurich University of the Arts with a BA (Hons) in Media & Arts with a major in Photography. Vera studied at Ravensbourne through the Erasmus programme in the autumn of 2016.

The project Status is a participatory photography project, which was instigated by Vera Zurbrügg in the spring of 2016. It is about a close collaboration between Vera, a photography student at Zurich University of the Arts, and refugees living in Zurich. The starting point of the project was the submergence of headlines and racist statements by the media and users of social media platforms, but also noted in public interviews or speeches given by Swiss politicians. These statements were based on stereotypes and prejudices. The media used and are still using the tragedy of refugees for their own sales strategy.  

Status should not leave any room for the external gaze but let the refugees show their own point of view. A methodology of participatory photography was therefore used and the refugees were involved in every step of the project, from beginning to end. The intention of using a participatory methodology was to create a genuine insight into the daily life of refugees. Some of the participating refugees are seeking asylum, whilst others have been living in Switzerland for a few years and been granted permanent residency. In the beginning of the project, much research was conducted into participatory strategies and photographers who use such strategies in their work. However, research was also carried out included studies of the asylum application procedure in Switzerland and refugee movements in Europe. After that, contact with refugees was made through two organisations; one funded by the government, the other one led by volunteers.

After a first phase of getting to know each other, disposable cameras were distributed, with the intention to create an authentic insight into the daily life of the asylum seekers. In a second step, the cameras were collected and the film developed. A selection of the processed photographs was made collaboratively. These photographs were arranged on wooden boards; boards that had been used to construct refugee housing and temporary homes for asylum seekers in a local fair hall.

Additional to the photographs, the refugees contributed handwritten texts, which were placed in juxtaposition with letters from the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration.

The most important part of Status is not the generated photographs, but rather the opportunity to get to know each other and to collaborate in an art project, spend time together, bond and rely on each other.

The outcome of the project is an installation, which was exhibited in a group exhibition in an art space called DIENSTGEBÄUDE in Zurich.

list of illustrations

Cover image: Photograph by Mojtaba, 2016
Fig. 1: Photograph by Mojtaba, 2016
Fig. 2: Photograph by Mojtaba, 2016
Fig. 3: Photograph by Nasim, 2016
Fig. 4: Photograph by Mojtaba, 2016
Fig. 5: Photograph by Mojtaba, 2016
Fig. 6: Photograph by Nasim, 2016
Fig. 7: Photograph by Mojtaba, 2016
Fig. 8: Photograph by Mohammed, 2016
Fig. 9: Photography by Hussein, 2016
Fig. 10: Photograph by Mohammed, 2016
Fig. 11: Photography by Yashar, 2016
Fig. 12: Photograph by Hussein, 2016