Representing Immigration Detainees: The Juxtaposition of Image and Sound in "Border Country"


  • Melanie Friend University of Sussex



immigration detention, asylum seekers, removal centres, oral testimony, photography, documentary practice, sound and image, representation


This paper discusses the four-year (2003-2007) research process towards my exhibition and publication "Border Country", which focuses on the experience of immigration detainees (appellant or "failed" asylum seekers) in the UK's "immigration removal centres". I discuss my earlier exhibition "Homes and Gardens: Documenting the Invisible" which focused on the repression in Kosovo under the Milošević regime, and the difficulties of representing the "hidden violence" which led to the adoption of a particular sound/image structure for the exhibition. I discuss how I then chose to work with a similar sound/image framework for "Border Country" and the aesthetic and conceptual considerations involved. I discuss the decision to expand the focus of the exhibition from one individual detainee to eleven, and to omit the photographic portraits of detainees from the exhibition for ethical and conceptual reasons. I finally produced a juxtaposition of photographs of immigration removal centre landscapes and interiors (devoid of people) with a soundtrack of oral testimonies. The voices of individual detainees could be heard at listening stations within the gallery spaces or on the publication's audio CD. Within this research process I also discuss my interview methodology and questions of power imbalance between photographer/artist and incarcerated asylum seekers. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1002334


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Author Biography

Melanie Friend, University of Sussex

Melanie FRIEND has worked as a documentary photographer for the past two decades. Since 2003 she has taught photography at the University of Sussex, UK, where she is a part time Senior Lecturer in the School of Media, Film and Music. Between 1989-2001, FRIEND made numerous trips to Kosovo as a photojournalist and freelance occasional print/radio reporter. Her exhibition "Homes and Gardens: Documenting the Invisible" was first shown at Camerawork Gallery, London in 1996 and toured internationally until 2001. Her sound/image installation "The Guide" was shown together with "Homes and Gardens: Documenting the Invisible" at the Hasselblad Center, Sweden in 2001. FRIEND's book "No Place Like Home: Echoes from Kosovo" was published by Midnight Editions, USA, 2001. In November 2007, FRIEND's current exhibition "Border Country", opened at Belfast Exposed Photography and then toured to three further UK galleries; a further show is scheduled for Gallery 44, Toronto in September 2010. The exhibition's accompanying publication "Border Country" (2007a), which comprises 17 images and a 75-minute audio CD, plus essays by Mark DURDEN, Alex HALL and Melanie FRIEND, was published by Belfast Exposed Photography and The Winchester Gallery.




How to Cite

Friend, M. (2010). Representing Immigration Detainees: The Juxtaposition of Image and Sound in "Border Country". Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(2).