1 Day Without Us

More than 100 students walked out of their classes at Goldsmiths, University of London, on Monday to show solidarity with migrants across the world.

Students and staff members, led by the Students’ Union and Goldsmiths UCU, met outside the Richard Hoggart Building at 1pm to take part in the protest ‘1 Day Without Us’, a national day of action to appreciate the contribution of migrants in the United Kingdom.

They shouted anti-Trump slogans, including “Donald Trump, go away. Racist, sexist, anti-gay!”, while parliament was debating Donald Trump’s visit to the UK; a discussion prompted by a recent online petition that reached nearly 2 million signatures.

Daniel Nasr, President of Goldsmiths Students’ Union, said: ‘As a migrant myself, I have lived here for five years and in those five years I have never experienced as much hate and anxiety as in the past eight months. We are seeing a government turn its back on migrants, enabling and legitimizing racism. As Parliament debates, we protest; as Parliament debates, we must speak up.’

People all over the UK shared their thoughts, photographs, videos and placards on social media using the hashtags #1DayWithoutUs and #Students4Migrants as well as the ‘1 Day Without Us’ Facebook and Twitter pages to take part in this day of unity and mutual support.

Tara Mariwany, Goldsmiths’ SU’s Welfare and Diversity Officer, said to students, teachers and guests: ‘Initiatives such as 1 Day Without Us show what society could look like. Our voices need to be louder, stronger and united. But let me say this: it is also up to us to pass on the megaphone to those who need their voices to be amplified the most.’

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Malia Bouattia, first female Black British and Muslim President of the National Union of Students (NUS), also took part in the protest, supporting all students and workers. She explained why she moved to the UK and ended her speech saying: ‘…the struggle continues.’

Nasr thanked everyone who took part in the protest and said: ‘Students, workers and migrants we must always continue to fight for our rights collectively because the liberation of one is meaningless without the freedom and solidarity of the other.’

Parliament Square was flooded with thousands of people in protest over what they termed Theresa May’s appeasement of Trump’s views and policies. Activists started reaching Westminster at 1 pm and left late in the evening. Many carried the flags of their countries with them, supported by universities, museums such as the Tate, trade unions, national organisations and workers from anywhere in the world.

Activists have planned other protests in the coming weeks.

 

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Tuesday 8th march 2016, Camberwell

When I walk into his shop in Camberwell, Alberto Petrozzi is standing in front of the mirror shaving his beard while talking on the phone to his wife. He starts telling me about his life as soon as he hangs up the phone. What a long life it has been, Alberto is an extraordinary 84 years old barber.

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“My name is Alberto Petrozzi, I was born in Newcastle, like my five brothers and one sister, but my parents took us to Italy when I was 4 years old. They were born in Sora, Italy, but they lived in England almost all their life. In 1914, my father, a shoemaker, moved here because Italy was poor; people needed to work but could not find jobs. When we went back to Italy in 1936, my father joined the army, I went to school under Mussolini and I learnt to be a barber.”

I ask him about Italian people in England.

“I have had Italian clients and I used to go to Saint Peter’s Church to meet my Italian friends. For a while, less people moved here because Italy was getting better, but now the migration has started again because of the new crisis.”

When I ask him to talk about himself, he smiles; he is confident and calm.

“When we moved back to England, in 1948, I started working in different shops. I was 17 and since then I have never tried a different job. I opened my shop in Camberwell in March 1961 and I love my job, it gives me the chance to talk to people every day. I have known some of my clients for years, others died, others moved back to their countries.”

I ask him if he feels Italian or British, if he is glad to be here, if he regrets anything.

“I am Italian, but I love England. Moving here was hard at the start. I had to work, save money and become the person I am now, but I am very happy I stayed. I would have nothing in Italy. When I was younger, I used to go to the church, to the Big Ben or to Soho to dance. I loved it, but at the end of the day, I have worked all my life. I happened to be here and to start my business here but it could have been anywhere else in the world.”

What about Camberwell?

“I have always worked here and lived in Southampton. Camberwell has not changed much; there are more buses and people have changed a lot. This area used to be British, while now it is all about foreigners. There is not much going on here. They have always wanted to open a tube station, which will never happen, and there has been crime, especially at night. Camberwell is a bit dangerous, like most places in London. Something bad happened years ago. I was in my shop talking to two clients, when a man drove into my window and smashed it. We were lucky nothing happened to the two women.”

What about Italy?

“I used to go to Italy very often because we have a house there, but we have not left England for a few years now since my wife is sick and cannot move. What would be the point in going to Italy to stay in bed? My son and daughter, married to an Irish woman and a British man, go on holidays there but their life is here and I cannot blame them. I have travelled a lot in my life but, anytime I could, I went back to Italy. Do I miss it? I have stopped missing Italy a long time ago. I have my Italian television here and I watch it every night when my wife goes to sleep. She does not like to listen to people talking in Italian.” He laughs.

He will give his shop to his son and daughter when he will retire. “I do not know what they will do with it. There are no other barbers in my family.” He sighs, then smiles.

“Now I need to go home to cook for my wife. Take care.”

 

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 – touching realism

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is the best way to sum up the year just gone, to dive into colours, eyes, smiles and tears and to deeply understand the faces and places of 2015.
With 4,929 submissions from 70 different countries entered by 2,201 photographers, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is the leading competition to promote the best in contemporary portrait photography and to form an astonishing portrait of the world we live in.
Judged anonymously over the course of two days, this year, it also features previously unseen prints from a new body of work by Pieter Hugo, South African photographer chosen by the Gallery for his extraordinary approach to portraiture.
The judges of the 22nd year of the exhibition are Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Dr. Phillip Prodger – Director and Head of Photographs at National Portrait Gallery, respectively – photographer Hannah Starkey, Scottish National Portrait Gallery photography curator Anne Lyden, director of Cardiff Ffotogallery David Drake, and Tim Eyles, Managing Partner of the award’s sponsor, Taylor Wessing LLP. The most highly rated portraits of this year are by photographers Anoush Abrar (Iran), Ivor Prickett (Ireland), David Stewart (England) and Peter Zelewski (USA).

Entering the two connected rooms where the exhibition is displayed, all the photographs are placed on white walls, which make the bright colours of each picture even more alive. Surrounded by the photos, it seems like the subjects of the artworks are staring at you, and you could talk to them and ask them about their stories. Beside each photograph there is a caption showing the name of the artist, his/her qualifications, the title of the picture and a little description of how the artist came up with the idea of the photo.
What is extraordinary about the exhibition is its simplicity. The subjects of the photographs are not flawless and some of them are not even posing. Realism is the common theme of the exhibition. The viewers can feel as if they enter the photographs, find themselves in different countries, experience new realities, get to know cultures and traditions that would usually be too far away to discover.
The photographs convey a sense of pure energy, as if some of them could light up the room, while others could make it dark and silent.

 

“Yngvild”, by Tereza Červeňová, recipient of the 2015 John Kobal New York Award, is my favourite photograph of the exhibition. The artist, born in 1991, who experienced trouble modelling for a few years, took the photo the first time she met Yngvild, young model and artist herself, in August 2014. Each element in the photo is interconnected to the other; Yngvild looks strong but weak at the same time, the dark background makes her skin light up, gives her more energy, which the viewer can feel just by observing her. She looks tense, as if she is posing for a worldwide famous magazine; her long wavy hair looks so real that I can almost touch it. I find the photograph touching, wonderful but sad at the same time. Yngvild is a model, motivated to reach perfection, but unavoidably not flawless. Tereza can read Yngvild’s mind because of her own experience and it shines through the photograph itself.
“Happy Pupil of Budaka” by Mark Chivers is the photograph that makes me smile the most. Chivers shows to the viewers that it is possible to find beauty and happiness in the most unlikely places. The photo displays blurred students in the background while the camera is focused mostly on one pupil. Owen is a young Ugandan boy whose education is funded through a charity known as Lessons for life. His infectious smile is so genuine and heart-warming he not only makes his entire fellow peer group smile, he even draws a smile from the most hardened face in the Gallery. The photograph is particularly powerful due to the fact the kid is smiling because of the gift of education, which it is not fully appreciated in our richer reality.
David Stewart’s portrait of his daughter and her friends, “Five Girls 2014”, which is the first prize winner of the year, mirrors a photograph he took of them in 2008 when they were about to start their studies. Anyone could tell the girls belong to the same group, they are wearing similar clothes, eating the same food and all have similar phones. What Stewart wants is for his viewers to focus on the girls’ eyes, the way they are all staring at something far away, as if their minds are in different places, even though their bodies are not moving. There is an element of distance between the five girls and that is what makes the photograph special. How many times could we watch this scene walking into a café in a big city? How many times have we been the subjects of this picture without even realising it? The original photograph of the five girls was displayed in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2008 exhibition and this year is the sixteenth time Stewart has had a photograph in the exhibition.
“The neighbour”, from the series Poetry of Daily Life, makes me shiver. The photographer, Viktorija Vaisvilaite Skirutiene, caught in the photograph a little boy standing on his father’s desk in front of a big window while pointing a gun towards his neighbours’ house. The boy is naked and standing as if he knows exactly how to get ready to shoot, as if it is something he does every day or has seen many times before. The black and white photograph makes the viewers aware of different realities in other countries. Things that might be normal somewhere in the world could be unusual elsewhere.

 

Visiting the exhibition is definitely worth it, it is an unforgettable experience for both professional photographers and art’s lovers. Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 is at the National Portrait Gallery, London from the 12th of November 2015 to the 21st of February 2016.