Routes

Routes is a project that acts as a witness to the tragedy of those who die and go missing attempting to reach Europe. Often something only communicated through data, scale is a crucial facet of this project. By zooming out as far as possible, Routes makes visual the brutal and dehumanising breadth of the crisis, documenting, fact checking and photographing the locations of every entry in the International Organisation for Migration dataset of dead and missing migrants; more than 17,000 individual images and, tragically, counting.

The focus of the work is a large scale collage. It is made up of satellite images of the locations where someone died or went missing. An image is repeated when more than one person died at that location. Printed on banners a huge scale at over 4m by 4m the collage shows the enormity of the tragedy, returning a physical presence to the dead who so often go unburied. This collage bears witness to the scale of the crisis and aims to confront the viewer. Exhaustively researched, an accompanying book contains the details of each fatal event that has been photographed and appears on the collages. 

Deaths during migration are rooted in landscape. It is Europe’s geography that has performed such lethal acts. A triptych of photographs taken from European shores at sites where people died, plants our feet firmly back on the ground. 

The third part of this project photographs physical traces of the burial of refugees in European soil, and documents the people and objects that mark, memorialise or identify the dead.

Routes asks: when borders are fortified, and further deals are struck, and people stop arriving, how will we, as a European community, memorialise those who lie in graves scattered around the European continent, under headstones that read only, ‘Unknown’?

Exhibitions

2020 | reGeneration4 | Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne

2019 | Refugee Week Dundee | Steeple Church, Dundee

2019 | Sink Without Trace | P21 Gallery, London

2019 | Visible Justice | London College of Communication, London

2018 | Elephant in the Room | London College of Communication, London

2018 | Artefact Brighton Photo Fringe | Brighton Phoenix, Brighton

Between 1st January, 2014 and 6th April, 2020; 17, 967 people were reported dead or missing along three of Europe's major migration routes.

This project documents a new European landscape, one that acts as a witness to the tragedy of those who die and go missing attempting to reach Europe. 

As well as those who identify, bury, and mourn the dead. 

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© 2020 Nathaniel White