You Can See Me, But I Do Not Exist
The title of this body of work contains a quotation from an eighteen-year-old Afghan boy seeking asylum in Sweden: “You can see me, but I don’t exist.” He was awaiting the response to his third and final appeal for permission to remain in the country and was expressing frustration at his unresolved status. To him, living outside the Swedish social “system” was equivalent to not existing. He was evidently present and visible in the physical world. However, without a “person number,” the numeric ID given to every resident and citizen of Sweden, he was denied access to the services essential to participating in society.
The Afghan boy’s words highlight the frustrations of living in “limbo” as an asylum seeker. We have all experienced limbo at one time or another. It is usually associated with a period of uncertainty during which we cannot move forward with our lives until someone, somewhere, makes a decision. “Will I get onto that course? Will the bank approve my loan? Will my operation proceed?” We are familiar with the emotions accompanying limbo situations, such as anxiety, frustration, helplessness, anger, or resignation.
Alan Gignoux is a documentary photographer based in London, UK. He has an MA in Documentary Photography from the London College of Printing. Gignoux specializes in long-form documentary projects that explore an issue over an extended period. His recent work reflects his commitment to environmental questions. In 2010, Gignoux began Oil Sands, a photography series that documents the effects of the Albertan bitumen-extracting industry on the local environment and communities. It was developed into an award-winning photo book in 2018 and selected for Taxed to the Max, the Noorderlicht Photo Festival in 2019. He is currently working on Monuments, a photography series about opencast lignite mining in Germany.