Photographing in Calais over a period of two years, from November 2014 through December 2016, Melissa documented refugees and migrants arriving there with the ultimate aim of reaching the UK. Several different camps in the area have served as temporary homes for countless people escaping war, torture and persecution in their home countries. The crisis is ongoing, and at this location near the narrowest part of the English Channel (separating mainland Europe from Great Britain), around 300 to 600 migrants at a time are now present in makeshift encampments.
The camps are places of in-between, where lives are suspended and disrupted while people seek protections and await bureaucratic validation in order to continue, in a legal sense. Settlements are under constant threat of being destroyed by French authorities, and violent interactions with police have created an ongoing struggle in Calais.
In her work, Melissa challenges the perception of refugees and migrants with a view of intimate moments created after building trusting relationships – a response to a lack of awareness and intimacy that has fuelled negative stereotypes and racism.
A minimum of £1 from each copy of El Dorado sold will be donated to the charity Help Refugees. They support refugees across Europe and the Middle East by ensuring that vital humanitarian aid reaches them when they need it most. Mobilising quickly, they find local organisations doing the most effective work and give them what they need to help people fleeing war, persecution and poverty — whether it’s funding, material aid or volunteers. Please follow our campaign and consider donating at helprefugees.org
Editing + design by Tiffany Jones