In C-R92/BY, Samuel Fordham investigates how families torn apart by immigration policies stay connected
Samuel investigates what it takes to maintain a relationship with a family member who has been physically and geographically removed from one’s life.
- Ruby Boddington
- 16 January 2020
“Due to some of the most divisive family immigration policies in the world, thousands of British families are forcibly separated by the Home Office,” explains Bristol-based photographer Samuel Fordham. As a result, these families are forced to communicate with each other via technology, leading to a rise of what is now known as the “Skype family”. In his series C-R92/BY, Samuel investigates what it takes to maintain a relationship with a family member who has been physically and geographically removed from one’s life. “What does it mean to take the irrefutably unique and transfer it into the infinitely replicable?” he asks.
It’s a subject close to Samuel’s heart, as his own wife Alexandra, known to her friends as Sasha, is facing deportation in the coming year. Throughout the series, his own experience is interwoven with the experiences of other families through photographs, documents, testimonies and other printed matter. The results and emotive and poignant, speaking to the hardships of detention and the strength it takes to hold a family together through 2D images and words.
The visuals within C-R92/BY are compelling and clever, but it’s the testimonies accompanying each image which really makes the project hit home. “[My son] went from a bubbly little boy to very reserved in the first few months of separation, he was angry at us both but couldn’t understand why dad won’t want to live with him,” reads one. Another reads: “Our five-year-old is now at a stage she realises Skype is not a real connection as she wants me to physically hug and kiss her. So, because of her disappointments, she sometimes simply refuses to come near the computer whenever I am on Skype with them.”
While not always as personal as this, Samuel’s portfolio is often concerned with current socio-political issues, resulting in a research-led approach. “Understanding the context is key to informing the visual language and conceptual approach,” he explains. “I also like to work from the personal, to find universality from the specifics of my own circumstances.” In turn, his work morphs formally and visually as he explores new topics.
“From a very early stage, I decided I wanted to break free from a signature visual language,” he tells us. “The photography world seems to enjoy streamlining work into a certain visual aesthetic (which no doubt has many favourable artistic and commercial qualities), but if you look to the wider art world it's not uncommon to see a myriad of approaches (if not mediums) in a single show.” Instead of striving for a consistent visual language therefore, Samuel’s work is “unified through its themes and concepts.” C-R92/BY is a series which demonstrates this approach, as the one series feels like a whole exhibition in of itself. It switches between media adeptly and swiftly, while the unifying message is clear: these policies are damaging families and the lives of those who are pulled apart.
In the uncertain times Britain finds itself in, unsure of what will happen with Brexit or anything else for that matter, C-R92/BY takes on another weight. “This work serves as a warning to the possible futures of many international families – and even, perhaps, to us all – as we transition ever further into a world in which we are defined by our online presence, and build relationships via images that appear on our screens,” Samuel concludes. The series is currently on show at South London Gallery as part of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries until February 2020.
GallerySamuel Fordham: C-R92/BY
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.