»Perilous Hope – A Documentary on Refugees«
Opening: Friday, May 20, 2016, 19-21h (Facebook Event)
Exhibition: May 21 – June 30, 2016
Artist Talk (held in German): Friday, May 27, 2016, 18-19h
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Opening hours: Tue-Fri 14-19h, Sat 12-15h, and by appointment
Never since World War II have so many refugees been on the road worldwide and especially in Europe. Every day we read and hear in news and reports about escape routes, people smugglers, dramatic situations and the frequent tragic failure of many escape attempts. As opposed to many photojournalists who give the European refugee crisis visual reality Neal McQueen sees himself more as an independent photographer, as a humanitarian activist.
For many years Neal McQueen has been engaged with the social and political changes in Europe. In the summer of 2015 he traveled to Greece, again and again. In the spring of 2016 he also worked on the Greek-Macedonian border in Idomeni. It is this spot which received international attention, because after the border was closed thousands of desperate refugees moving along the so-called Balkan Route were stopped in this little border town. They could not move on and were thus forced to remain in the region under appalling conditions. The shocking plight of Syrian refugees in Athens determined his resolution to deal with the refugee crisis in a deeper and more intensive way. In the fall of 2015 he returned to Athens and then continued on to Lesbos. It only took a few days for him to realize the dimension of this humanitarian crisis and so he decided to stay. Since last summer Lesbos has been one of the major refuge spots in the east Mediterranean Sea. Very hesitatingly did the local administration get international help, so that the conditions on the island were unbearable. Other Greek islands were also important locations of refuge and the routes changed constantly, but still most refugees landed on Lesbos: Every day several thousand people. Every one of them has his own tragedy, his own history, which made him undergo this life-threatening passage to Europe. The individual easily disappears behind the numbers and statistics of press publications. McQueen’s photographs which show his sympathy with the plight of the refugees give the individual a face, a perception. Apart from this he accompanies and documents the movement of private volunteers. He watches and supports the development and actions of new NGOs and at the same time casts a critical eye on the behavior of the established, large government institutions.
Being a photographer has changed me, has made me grow as a human being, has changed my view of the world. When I work with my camera I am totally focused as if in meditation. Since April 2015 I have almost exclusively worked on documentary projects, which means that I see my role more as a humanitarian activist than as a journalist.” – Neal McQueen
Although fewer refugees reach Germany at the moment than some months ago, this problem will continue to occupy us. The fact that Europe will change or rather must change is clear to everyone now. Photographs show the historical failing of our civilization in this refugee crisis. They are the most potent medium to convey experiences that someone else has made. For whatever we cannot see can be all the easier suppressed and forgotten. So McQueen‘s photos are therefore utterly necessary. They demand an attitude from everyone who looks at them. “The photograph says: Put an end to this, intervene, act. And that is the decisive, the correct reaction.” (Susan Sontag; from Regarding the Pain of Others, 2003)
The photographs of Neal McQueen‘s Non-Profit Project are presented for the first time in a gallery. His work is characterized by directness, personal closeness to the portrayed people and their dramatic living conditions. The photos and texts will be presented on large paper banners in order to underline the spontaneous, direct formation process of the photographs.
“Quo Vadis Europe?”
The second series, which will be presented in Galerie Hilaneh von Kories was taken between April to June 2015 and it offers an insight into Neal McQueen‘s not yet completed long-term project, which takes him through Europe looking for new perspectives and inspiration. He interviewed all kinds of people and personalities about their view of Europe at present. His intensive black and white portraits are accompanied by extensive interviews, so that the observer is confronted with the many voices of Europe.
About the artist
Neal McQueen, born in 1969 in Hamburg, got already interested in photography as an adolescent. At 14 his father, a widely traveled captain, gave him a Russian camera equipment. What became more important was music. McQueen was active in various genres of the music scene as a singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, sound engineer and DJ for over 25 years, until he returned to photography in 2011. His photographic topics, which he originally worked on totally with analogue technique, are now almost exclusively realized with digital equipment, yet he stayed true to his preference for the black and white picture. From 2015 working as an independent photographer McQueen has focused mainly on documentary projects.
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