Immigrants are people, not just figures says young Canadian photographer
Brett Gundlock didn’t know anything about immigration. He had not lived the immigrant experience himself nor did know anyone who had. His limited views on the subject came from what he had heard during his occasional chats with cab drivers and by listening to their stories.
But after working on a photo series about Neo-Nazi skinheads in Canada, the young Canadian photographer had some questions. For three years, he had listened to their “extremist” ideas about immigration and now he had a desire to learn more about it.
“Our country is built on immigration,” says Gundlock. “Immigration is extremely important in (the) history of Canada and will be in the future. So this project is just to contribute to that conversation.”
He believes that the actual challenges of moving from one country to the other and trying to integrate there is generally left unacknowledged when making changes to immigration policies.
“The dollar sign is the bottom-line of every decision we make with immigration. I think having the perspective of this work is the humanistic perspective to it, so we need to think about people as people and not just figures.”
That’s why Gundlock is currently working on a new project about immigration in the city of Toronto. He wants to meet and photograph people who are setting up their new lives here and are in the process of integrating into Canadian culture and society. He is interested in showing the challenges of their “mental move, the mental test of moving.”
“I think in our society we think about immigration from a perspective of numbers and stats,” says Gundlock. “We don’t really approach immigration from a personal level. We don’t really acknowledge the actual challenges that people moving to Canada have.”
For him, immigration is essentially relocation from one home with the hope of creating a new one. So he is visiting people’s houses, taking photos and later pairing them with old family pictures from back home.
In his photographs, Gundlock is trying to document old and new homes, past memories and new lives. He is hoping that the little stories exposed or displayed in the contrast of the two paired pictures would resonate with people.
However, like the newcomers he photographs, Gundlock is having challenges of his own with the new project. Meeting new immigrants and having them agree to be photographed “has been fairly difficult,” and a big challenge, he admits. He has already photographed about five people and is looking for ten or fifteen others, in order to have a broad representation of diverse origins, race and social situations.
Another challenge he encountered is with the creative aspect. The idea of pairing two pictures together or what is known as diptych in the art world, is not a thing he has done before. It’s a breakaway from his “traditional or journalistic” kind of photography.
Gundlock, 26, had moved to Toronto from Alberta four years ago. After initially working for the National Post newspaper as a staff photographer, he later went on his own, freelancing for various publications and magazines in the city.
Gundlock is hoping to finish photographing the immigrants over the next few weeks and organize an exhibit in the Fall. If you are a recent immigrant interested in participating in his project, or know someone who would be, Gundlock is waiting to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information can be found on the project’s website: brettgundlock.com/project/home .
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