Dans le cadre de la saison Automne 2021, Pingpong le Toit accueille une exposition inédite de photos de Raphaël Lucas.
Du 23 septembre au 24 octobre > Pingpong le Toit
En octobre 2013, Raphaël Lucas s'installe à Paris. Il visite un centre d'accueil de jour pour les personnes exilées et y rencontre deux Afghans. S'ensuivent une enquête de 6 mois à leurs côtés pour comprendre le quotidien des exilés à Paris et un reportage photo aux côtés de Médecins du Monde et publié sur > Vantage.com
En octobre 2013, je viens de m'installer à Paris et entreprends d'explorer la ville pour y trouver un sujet sur lequel travailler à un documentaire.
J'ai l'opportunité de visiter un centre d'accueil de jour pour les personnes exilées. Un matin, j'y fais la connaissance de deux jeunes Afghans en exil, venus chercher un soin pour une blessure au pied. A cette époque j'avais un peu entendu parler des "migrants" afghans à Paris par une affaire de réseau de passeurs qui opérait dans le 10ème arrondissement, relayée dans les médias nationaux.
Notre rencontre est très chaleureuse, ils m'autorisent à les suivre et à les photographier. A la suite de cette matinée, je perds leur trace dans Paris et me mets en tête de les retrouver pour en savoir plus sur eux. J'enquête.
C'est le point de départ de ce travail. S'ensuivront de nombreuses rencontres et expériences, des prises de conscience. J'ai suivi au quotidien pendant 6 mois un groupe protéiforme et hétérogène de jeunes hommes afghans, exilés, vivant tous pour la plupart dans la rue aux abords de la Gare de l'Est. L'ennui et l'insécurité, l'attente d'un statut ou d'un nouveau départ, l'impossibilité de travailler, la pauvreté, l'incertitude face au futur et un sentiment puissant de déracinement sont omniprésents dans cet univers.
Pourtant, j'ai été frappé par la force morale et la capacité de résilience de certains d'entre eux, par leur beauté et leur dignité.
Avoir le courage de se reconstruire dans une culture aussi radicalement différente que peuvent l'être les cultures afghanes et françaises, après une odyssée de milliers de kilomètres à pied est quelque chose d’extrêmement impressionnant. C'est ce que j'ai souhaité mettre en lumière dans ce travail, ce moment où la peine s'efface un peu et laisse une place pour que surgisse autre chose.
Jeudi 23 septembre 18h > Pingpong le Toit
Vernissage de l'exposition en présence de Raphaël Lucas
Pingpong le Toit
Toit de la Maison des entreprises
4, rue de la Mégisserie
Artiste pluridisciplinaire et transversal, Raphaël Lucas est actuellement artiste en résidence au Centre Culturel de Rencontres de l’Abbaye de Sylvanès, en tant que compositeur.
Formé à la composition musicale aux État-Unis entre 2007 et 2012. Cette expérience le conduit à entreprendre à son retour en France la réalisation de travaux de recherche en photographie documentaire. Il réalise une série photographique Exiles en suivant le quotidien de jeunes exilés afghans dans les rues du Xème arrondissement de Paris en 2013-2014. Puis, dans la continuité des problématiques auxquelles ce premier travail l’a confronté, il s’intéresse à la déconstruction / reconstruction de la représentation de l’identité masculine contemporaine via plusieurs séries : État des corps (2014-2016), présentée en projection au Festival de Photographie de Montmélian en 2016, ECDYSIS (2016) et The Subdued (2013 - présent). Raphaël Lucas est né à Sète, dans l’Hérault, il vit dorénavant à Sauclières.
Il travaille actuellement au développement de plusieurs travaux sur le territoire du Causse du Larzac, en lien avec le paysage et ses habitants. Il présentera 6 portraits de femmes vivant sur le Larzac du 5 au 25 août à Pingpong le Toit à Millau. La série Les Puissantes avait été présentée à Rodez en 2019.
>En savoir plus : www.raphael-lucas.net
Interview de Raphaël Lucas par Brendan Seibel
How did you wind up working with Médecins du Monde when you originally photographed migrants in Paris?
A friend of mine worked in a Médecins du Monde branch on Avenue Parmentier, called CASO, and asked me to realize a portfolio of their regular activity for their intern com. That's how I met two young men from Afghanistan, one of them was wounded and came to get his injury checked. They were very friendly and shared a bit of their experience as migrants. So I photographied them but then I lost their track. It was actually in the process of trying to find them by going to the places they said they usually went and by talking to people hanging out, that I started to get involved with the specific situation of migrants from Afghanistan in Paris.
What is it about Afghan migrants that you find particularly intriguing, as opposed to other ethnic groups?
Well, it's a question that involves personnal feelings and experiences. But mainly, their condition as migrants from Afghanistan was particulartly meanningful to me because of my experience of living in the US for over 5 years in a community of Mexican migrants, being exposed daily to the problematic of surviving in a country without a legal status. Actually, some of the guys I photographied or just talked to in the streets of the 10th district, were involved at some point with US forces in Afghanistan, and had to leave the country for their own safety because of that engagement. There is even a case of a young man who had travelled to Center America, then all the way through Mexico to the US border and whom, after 2 years of processing his case, was eventually deported by the CIA back to Afghanistan. So, I really found it fascinating that the indirect consequences of US foreign politics wound up in the streets of Paris, with the experience of these young men flying chaos to get a better condition of living, similarly to many South Americans migrating to the US. In a general way, I feel very much sensitive to how global politics affect people at the individual and personal level.
I’m trying to wrap my head around the situation that Afghan refugees are facing, and some of my background information is probably wrong so please forgive me. When I lived in Paris (2009/2010) there were a lot of Afghans living on the streets of the 10th, I believe because the mayor of the arrondissement refused to harass them. Eventually the prefectural police (I think it was them) broke up the encampments, and I don’t know what happened to everyone. Could you please enlighten me as to what’s been going on with the exiles over the past couple of years?
I've met a few young men arrested during the 2009/2010 campains of the prefectural police to remove the encampments in and around the Jardin Villemin, next to Gare de l'Est. Some of them went under accelerated court procedure and were sentenced to months if not years of jail upon the presumption they were part of a network of coyotes, while others were simply deported. As for those who were incarcerated, it added again months or years of waiting to get their situation setteld and start on the path of building their life. As I was hanging with the Afghans this past winter, they had been in increase of frequentation of the park, and I could feel tension building among people. I heard many new comers were being racketed by other more established members of the community and it seemed that various trafficking were going on. In any case, at the beginning of August this year, the police proceeded to a new intervention in the area and many people were arrested again. Since then, the community hardly gathers any more in the area, groups are scattered and moved to others places further north to Stalingrad or la Chapelle for example.
How did you convince your subjects to allow you to photograph them? Do you think you were given good access to their personal lives, or were you kept at a distance much of the time?
Conversation was the most I did. I was trying to be sincere, friendly and empathic to them. Then it was all a matter of personnal connections and sensitivities. Some guys responded very warmly, while others weren't interested in being photographed or were even hostile and felt endangered by the fact someone was having interest in their group. I never presented myself as a journalist, but rather as an artist with a social project, which was quite uneasy to explain in fact. Most of them are living in a constant state of fear and persecution, while others tried to protect their identity or whatever businesses they would not want to be uncovered. To protect one's identity or personal story might be essential for surviving within the group, considering the extreme tensions that lie between communities and ethnies in Afghanistan. It might also be essential to preserve chances to get refugee status, as the consistancy of a story might be a key factor in being granted the status. In other words, the whole relational fabric is a rather complex frame of truths, ommissions, inventions, second degree speech, that may vary from one interlocutor to the other. In practice, I had to face a lot of projections, of which being regarded as a cop wasn't the most ennoying of all... It limited sometimes the possibility to photography or the relevance or what I was told. But there were also many individuals who felt glad ans safe about the fact someone was interested in them. In other words, there was a whole spectrum of acceptance, from total reject to sincere friendship and I tried to deal with everyone's specificities. You’ve chosen to focus on aspects of character versus the situation. What surprised you about the people you’ve photographed? Did you find commonality between the men?
What inspired me the most is their incredible moral strengh and ability for resilience. Reconstructing oneself in a culture as remote as the French culture can be from the Afghan one, starting from absolutely nothing after a 5000 miles journey which issue is all but secured, is something that is extremely impressive. That's what I've tried to put a light on in my photographs, that moment when pain is fading, leaving space for something new to spring.
Some of the people in the series are very young and obviously arrived in France when they were minors. The way I understood it, the French government was basically ignoring its obligations in protecting minors, particularly Afghan immigrants, and refusing to acknowledge that they had kids living on the street. Do any of the people you’ve met attest to those rumors? Has there been any new systems to identify and protect minors coming into France in the past few years?
France Terre d'Asile has denounced the way isolated minors are being treated and the lack of consideration of the French governement to their specific rights. However there are many associations and shelters dedicated to providing specific care and support to isolated minors, especially in Paris. The only kids whom I knew were minors, were being taken in charge by social services according to their particular situation, meaning they were provided home, food, and education in public schools. However, it seems to me that the most serious problems arise at the moment they become major, with no more social services to provide security and orientate them. It seems to be a particularly difficult time for young persons, as they are still vulnerable and likely to turn into deliquency, which adds to a situation that might already be complicated. For instance if they found themselves unaible to get refugee status as minors, then becoming undocumented majors from one day to another.
How have Afghans been surviving in Paris?
The general appreciation among the Afghans I've talked to is that they feel much more welcomed in France than in any other European country they went through. There are various stages of how one survives in Paris as an undocumented refugee, depending on how far you are into the "integration" process. But basically, for one who's arrived and wants to stay in Paris, there is a network of associations (France Terre d'Asile being one of the most proeminent in Paris) that help people orientate themselves to find food, clothe, shelters and start with legal proceedings. Their daily life is adjusted on a routine schedule of meetings with associations and social services' staff, times to keep to get food and shelter, etc. Most of the time being spent in waiting, which is the toughest aspect to deal with, as it takes a lot of moral strengh to maintain motivation in spite of uncertainty and the lack of secure perspectives.
When I lived there Hôspital Saint-Louis was a place sans-papiers went because they wouldn’t be hassled because of their status. There were doctors and nurses there who used to buy supplies with their own money and prepare care-packages for the homeless migrants coming through. Do you happen to know if there have been any new programs introduced, either by the hospital or a private organization, that’s stepped in to fulfill that role? Or, conversely, has anyone gotten in trouble for working with migrants?
It seems to me that the specific situation of Afghan migrants in the 10th district has gone rather transparent in the media and in public opinion. I don't think the personnel of the Hôpital St-Louis still provides particular care to Afghan migrants. But personally I haven't heard of any specific cases of people getting in trouble for working with migrants. There is rather strong network of associations and other organizations that help sans-papiers get basic health care. But they require from people to commit to their own system, which implies to respect a certain order in how to get access to those services. It seemed to me that some people feld uneasy to comply with humanitarian care system, then chose not to use it. In consequence, they might either ignore their own needs, or also bind with individual citizens who are willing to help them independentely of any organized system.
What are some of the things that the Afghans want? Are people mostly passing through to London or do they want to live permanently in Paris?
In my inverstigation with them, I chose to focus on people who had decided to establish themselves in France, because I wanted to investigate on reconstruction rather than a migrant's Odyssey. There are various socio-economic profiles among exiled Afghans, ranging from educated, high middle-class, to rural backgrounds. What all of them have in common and are seeking in Europe is security. It is the main reason for them to ask for asylum or simply stay in France. Economic aspects also enter in account but are far less proeminents than with Latin American immgration to the US, for instance. As for those who were only passing by, I could see a variety of situations, mainly with people passing through to London indeed, or other Northen Europe country. I also witnessed a backward motion, with people actually leaving England by fear of being deported from there, to get to Belgium, France or Italy for instance.
What rays of hope did you see? Did anyone you met manage to get any sort of official status?
Yes, a few of them were granted the refugee status since I've met them. And I can see many are still fighting hard even though they haven't gotten their situation settled yet.
Do you have any idea what can be done to make life better for these guys?
According to the conversations I had with almost all of those I spoke to, boredom, the lack of accupation and specific goals is the worst aspect to deal with in an undocumented refugee's life, along with feelings of dependance on others to survive. So, I think that having the possiblity to get a job would be the best to do for them, as it keeps up self esteem, it makes people independant and it secures a position within society. But the right to work, and in fact the right to have such a place in society, is of course only granted by getting refugee status, so it forces people to be in a sort of social limbo as they are waiting for their case to be processed, sometimes durably if status is actually never granted. In that regard, a migrant in the US has better opportunities to get by, as it is much more in the culture of the US to bypass the rules and work off the books than in France, where hardly any employer is willing to do that, especially in the capital city. So, in practice, many of them finally choose to survive off parallel economies.
How did working on this project change you personally? As an apprentice photographer, I realized how important it is to consider the distance that one puts to his/her subject, consciously or not. Now, I think I could have broken some barreers if I hadn't try to appear too neutral and to maintain such a neutrality all the time. Because of my own cultural prejudices and our differences in modes of communication, I certainly projected as many fears on them as they did on me, at least to a certain point during the process of mutual gauging. I guess this experience thaught me that in order to tuch on something as a photographer, I must also give something of myself and accept to get transformed somehow by the experience I'm going through.
EXIL 2021 est une saison culturelle proposée par Aporia Culture, Pingpong, le Théâtre de la Maison du Peuple, le cinéma de Millau et Grands Causses Cinéma. Avec le soutien de la SAIF, la Copie privée, la Région Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée, et l'accueil de la Communauté de Communes Millau Grands Causses. En partenariat avec E2 Communication et la librairie Syllabes.