AT HOME: EUROPEANS IN THE UK – Susana de Dios

I am a Spanish photographer living and working in the UK. My work explores issues of immigration and identity through portrait and documentary photography.

In the aftermath of the EU referendum, many UK-based Europeans were left with feelings of insecurity and anxiety about what the future might hold for them and their families. It was this climate of uncertainty that motivated me to start working on photo-documentary series At Home.

In the months after the vote to leave the European Union, I travelled the country to photograph and talk to some of the people directly affected by this potentially life-changing event.

At Home offers a snapshot of their experiences, capturing their thoughts and emotions following this momentous decision.

Although essentially a documentary of others, it was also a project born out of a need to try to process and make sense of the referendum result and what it meant for me personally as an EU immigrant.

Here are some of the stories I came across:

 

Alzbeta

“I would love to be able to be part of British society and not be looked upon as a foreign person who shouldn’t be here, or who is exploiting the system. There are people out there who are much worse for society, and they don’t come from Eastern Europe.”

Alzbeta © Susana de Dios

Alzbeta came to the UK in 2014 from Slovakia to pursue her passion for music. She applied to University in the UK and was accepted into a BA in Music (Jazz) course, which she completed in May 2017.

With no previous training in jazz music, Alzbeta came to the UK not knowing what to expect. Here she found a welcoming multicultural community and a thriving jazz music scene, where she regularly performs. She regards her decision to move to this country as the best decision she has made in her life.

 

 

Alexandra

“I think the country is going to go through some difficulties now unless people are really flexible and resourceful. They will have to be more creative about how to be outside the EU and still be a very vibrant and robust country, both financially and culturally. How they go about it is the big unknown now.”

Alexandra © Susana de Dios

Alexandra came to the UK from Greece in 2003 to further her education. Shortly after arriving, she started a Postgraduate course in Drama Therapy, combining her studies with a job as a supply teacher.

She then started a family and began working as a therapist for the NHS CAMS Service, supporting children with mental health issues.

Having been made redundant from this role in 2013, she decided to focus again on her education, enrolling in a Postgraduate course in Psychoanalytical Observational Studies at the University of Leeds with a view to setting up her own private practice as a Psychotherapist.

 

Andrés

“It was sad to see how most of the Leave campaign was focused on immigration, blaming people like me for some of the biggest problems of this country. It was very irresponsible of politicians to pit one section of the population against another for their own interests, not valuing foreign workers for the contribution we make to the development of this country.”

Andres © Susana de Dios

 Andrés comes from the Andalucía region of Spain and has lived in the UK since 2011. He has a Spanish wife, Inma, who works as a scientist for a natural nitrogen technology company. The couple have two young sons, both born in the UK.

A professionally trained actor, Andrés now works as a pharmacist and is also a founding member of “El Cuervo” – a bilingual English-Spanish theatre company operating in the East Midlands.

 

María

“I have experienced a lot of sadness and anxiety. I felt left out at a time when I was working hard to fit in and adapt to British culture. I am not sure where I will end up, I’m young and there’s a whole world out there to explore.”

Maria © Susana de Dios

María came to the UK from Madrid in 2014. She holds a Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the Universidad Complutense.

Maria holds a position as a Spanish teacher at her local University and is also currently enrolled in a Masters Programme to further her skills in the education sector.

In the future, Maria would like to develop her own Spanish-teaching business, using her passion for cooking as a medium for teaching the language.

 

Rimante

“I am a very open person. This country is beautiful and the people over here are beautiful. I have learnt so much and I feel like no matter what’s happening if people unite we can all just live here happily. If I ever feel like I want to leave I’ll leave, but not because of Brexit.”

 

Rimante © Susana de Dios

Rimante arrived in the UK from Lithuania in 2014 looking to further her education and find better opportunities for herself.

She studied Multimedia at her local University for two years and then completed a course on alternative therapies.

For the past year she has worked for the buying department of a builders’ merchant and home improvement retailer, a role she has found exciting and challenging and that has allowed her to develop and learn new skills.

  

Simona

“I cried when I found out about the result of the referendum, for me it was a sign of regression. I think the idea of controlling people’s freedom of movement between countries is unnatural and unnecessary.”

Simona © Susana de Dios

Simona comes from Italy and moved to the UK in 2009. She recently graduated with a BA in Music Performance in one of the country’s leading music schools and now collaborates regularly with musicians, singer-songwriters and orchestras in many festivals across the country.

The uncertainty that Brexit has brought to EU nationals in the UK has changed her way of seeing a future in this country both for her husband and herself.

Since the vote, they can sense an air of hostility towards immigrants and immigration in general, and are worried that the current political rhetoric hasn’t addressed this problem so far. Simona feels let down in this respect, but very much heartened by the support and understanding they have both had from their British friends.

 

 

Going forward, I would like to expand on the conversation I started with At Home last year. The next stage of this work will be to revisit some of the people I have met and capture their current experience living in Brexit Britain.

In a general sense, I am particularly interested in exploring the themes of resilience and the reshaping of identity in the face of change.

Given the current social and political reality, what is the way forward and how do we redefine our place in British society? Perhaps more importantly, as immigrants, what have we learnt about ourselves, one year on?

 

For more of this project check out Susana’s At Home photo blog or check out her website for more of her work.

 

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