Four different covers

Photographs of refugees from countries including Angola, Burma, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Syria.

Photographed in Burma, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, South Africa, South Korea, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey. The images are accompanied by a personal account which sets the individuals’ lives into the context of a vast global problem.

Designer Ayumi Higuchi’s concept for the book is a metaphor for the stories inside. This is not a glossy coffee table book: it is small, light, portable. The screenprinted cover is made from the corrugated cardboard used in disposable packaging. The binding is lifejacket orange. Photographs travel across pages, resisting resolution, printed on matt paper which absorbs light rather than reflecting it: this is an appropriately dark document.

"Encountering the people in these photographs was like looking over the edge of a high and unstable cliff, nauseous at the glimpse of what it must feel like when the ground disappears from beneath your feet and you start falling. They are part of an immense and growing population of refugees: over 60 million people around the world whose lives have been ruptured by conflict, violence or persecution. Refugees are displaced in both space and in time.

This phenomenon is not restricted to any particular corner of our planet. It is a problem which defies coherence both of explanation and solution. This slight book therefore cannot hope to be a comprehensive study of refugees, based around numbers and analysis. Instead it offers glimpses of their lives: because while this problem can be summarised in statistics ultimately it’s the individual stories which matter.

Most of the people in these photographs have suffered chaos. Not the chaos that some of us find in a disrupted commute, in unreasonable demands at work and queues in the supermarket on a rainy day. They have suffered the chaos of violence and sexual assault, of starvation and bereavement, of repeated flight and prolonged uncertainty. Many have lost everything: belongings, jobs, community, rights, family members - and, by definition, home.

Despite the darkness of their circumstances the people I met were resilient. If they do not think that their own situation is hopeless, it would be wrong to assume hopelessness on their behalf. It’s possible to help refugees; to soften their fall.”

— from the artist’s statement

Proceeds from the sale of the book will support the charity Refugees International Japan.

Artist Profile