Refugees here, refugees there. There is only one topic left in our media world: refugees. But even though the debate is now part of the digital mainstream or “old hat” category, the two photo and video producers Sebastian Kortmann and Raphael Schumacher from SNTFLUT wanted to play their part.
Within the scope of an action of the organisation RheinFlanke Köln, the two creative people visited a football camp, where - sometimes very young - asylum seekers play football together, exchange ideas and find variety through the sport. They spontaneously held a small photo workshop during the half-time break and showed that it is not only football that connects. We talked to Sebastian Kortmann and Raphael Schumacher about their experiences.
Sebastian and Raphael, how did the idea of the spontaneous photo workshop come about?
Originally we were invited by the RheinFlanke Köln to take some pictures of the football tournament for underage refugees. At the beginning we kicked with the kids and took pictures. A very good approach to breaking the ice and building trust with us and the cameras.
During the lunch break the kids arrived and were more interested in the cameras than the food. Basically, the idea of a spontaneous introductory course in photography was born at that time and we said to ourselves: “Once you've all eaten, we'll show you how the camera works and what to look out for.”
How did the kids of the RheinFlanke Cologne react to your idea? Did you know the medium of photography?
Apparently the kids liked the idea very much. Regardless of age and gender, they ventured into the camera. It was interesting to see how intuitively they operated the camera. After a short briefing they took amazingly good pictures. The difficulty was that the kids had to take pictures with the Canon FD 50mm 1.8, which can only be focused manually.
Well, nowadays children grow up with an incredible flood of pictures and are therefore familiar with the picture (in the broadest sense) - no matter where they come from. Our impression of the workshop underpins this statement, which they knew how to take a good photo.
Sport connects, they say. What about photography?
Exactly. Football is internationally understandable due to a wide variety of factors. Photography also has this characteristic. There, too, aspects can be found that link different cultures or religions. One of the main points here is the reception of the photographs or pictures. The visual representation without text allows to overcome possible linguistic barriers and to explain the photographic contents to oneself. Individual interpretations of photographs make it possible to grasp the phenomenon in a more differentiated way than, for example, written works. That's great for a start.
In our bachelor thesis, in which we dealt with exactly this phenomenon, we speak of a “visual Esperanto” - a universal and world-encompassing language. We think that describes it quite well.
And how do you think photography can contribute to the integration of refugees?
What these protection-seekers go through is incredibly complex and actually inconceivable for us. They have to reorient themselves culturally, politically and socially and basically experience a “second socialisation”.
Integration requires successful interaction between us - as locals - and the refugees. With our photographs we wanted to achieve exactly that: an interaction of different cultures. These lifelike images show reality and nothing more than a person who has the right to live in peace.
Accordingly, photographs have the function of contributing to the understanding and acceptance of other behaviours and cultures.
Your action was obviously a complete success. What would you like to give other photographers?
As far as the issue of refugees is concerned, it is desirable to try to show with such photographs that a refugee is not illegal or different in any way. A person like you and me.
Bleaches reality! But to be honest, every photographer should decide for himself how and in what intensity he wants to treat the subject.