Interview: Sophie Mayanne’s new project ‘Demarcation’ brings to light immigration issues
Known for her raw and monochromatic portraiture, 22-year-old London based photographer Sophie Mayanne’s new project ‘Demarcation’ sees young people candidly share their feelings and stories about London as their stay in the city comes to end.
Could you explain to us briefly what project Demarcation is about?
Demarcation is a project that started around August 2015. It first came about when I was chatting to one of my close friends, about the fact they may be in a situation where they have to leave soon. My natural instinct as a photographer, of course – was to want to photograph my friend, and capture that in-between moment. That moment of uncertainty, limbo and not knowing exactly what the future holds. Several of my friends faced this situation, and each of them I captured in the weeks before they left. For me it was important to capture their stories, and their words they have written alongside their portraits are quite poignant. The word Demarcation means “the action of fixing boundary or limits of something”. My closest friends have since moved home, our friendships now confined to “online spaces”. At points there was also an underlying guilt too. One friend turned to me and said “You don’t know how lucky you are, I wish I had what you have”. I never really appreciated what I had until it was pointed out to me, and I saw that it was so hard for others to obtain.
How did the project “Demarcation” come about? What was the motivation behind it?
The third person, in the series – Dasha Kova – is the friend whom the project was initially inspired from – although she was the 3rd person I photographed. I think we put it off for a while, almost in a pretence that she wasn’t actually leaving – that October 30th wasn’t as close as the calendar said it was. We met in our second year of University, and worked, laughed, cried, slept on each others floor and created a friendship. In her last months, weeks, days the reality of leaving loomed over her – and I don’t think even know, I truly understand the extent of leaving things behind, or not having a choice – because it’s not a situation I have faced head on, but seeing my friends experience it – it was something I felt was my duty, and within my ability/ sphere to share honestly.
What message do you hope to send through your project?
I hope to inspire, to connect people – and for people to know they’re not alone in that situation! That even when you move home, your friends are still here. Even though it’s not what you hoped for, or wanted – that maybe one day the tables will turn. I hate to sound like a cliché – but for my friends, I know at times they felt VERY alone in what they were going through – and that each way they turned, it felt like there was another door closing.
Many people from around the world come to study or work in London and end up feeling at home here. What do you think makes London so attractive to people?
London has so much to offer – it’s vibrant, rich (not in a money sense, more in culture, arts, experiences, people), and offers some people a completely different end of the spectrum to what they’re used too.
Stricter UK visa requirements and immigration rules are forcing people, especially international students, back to their home countries immediately after graduation, though they want to stay longer. What do you think can be done for these people?
To let the people who want to stay and work have a fighting chance. A lot of visas don’t allow you to work at all whilst you are here. If you aren’t allowed to work whilst you are here, realistically, how are you within a fighting chance to have a company sponsor you for a visa? Prior to 2012, a graduate visa existed – giving people the opportunity to intern, gain experience and work – giving them the chance to obtain the skills and experience they need. If someone wants to work – why not let them?