Photography The suspended lives of Moroccan immigrants in Spain
Photographyconceptual photography

The suspended lives of Moroccan immigrants in Spain

Felipe Romero Beltrán's Dialect project documents the lives of Moroccan immigrants in Spain over three long years
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Giorgia Massari
Felipe Romero Beltrán

In a never-ending state of waiting, Moroccan youths lead their lives inside an internment center in Seville, Spain, where they are immigrants while still minors. The system locks them here in a Kafkaesque limbo, trapped in a lengthy bureaucratic process that takes up to three years before they obtain their arraigo, the residence permit issued for exceptional circumstances. It is within this space-time vacuum that Colombian photographer Felipe Romero Beltrán‘s (1992) research is articulated to give rise to the Dialect project, later published in a book published by Loose Joints. The migration crisis is here investigated through photography but not only for documentary purposes. Performance and conceptual art are strongly integrated with the intention of analyzing the condition of emptiness that the body and mind experience while waiting.

Felipe Romero Beltrán

Felipe Romero Beltrán’s interest in the plight of young immigrants is rooted in his personal history. Born in Colombia during the civil war, which was later resolved in 2016, the photographer looks closely at socio-cultural issues that mainly concern governmental processes, the supreme decision-makers of the individual’s fate. Having moved to Madrid after long periods of study away from his hometown, Beltrán knows what it means to be a foreigner in a country that does not always welcome you with fervor. That’s why, when he is invited to do a workshop in the internment center for young immigrants in Seville, he accepts with interest and stays there for three years, working closely with the boys. Not only from an artistic point of view but also from a human point of view, giving them a great hand about understanding their situation. From this point of view, it is important to note that the title – Dialect – derives precisely from Felipe’s focus on the problem of the language barrier. Indeed, the first phase of the project consists of black-and-white portraits of some immigrants intent on reading, without understanding anything at all, the Spanish immigration law. Immediately the theme of exclusion by a system that wants integration but does not facilitate it emerges.

Felipe Romero Beltrán

A second phase of the project revolves around theatrical performance. Felipe Romero Beltrán inserts the component of play and entertainment within a condition of emptiness, boredom and decadence that the boys suffer inside the center. In the shots they are immortalized in plastic poses as they enact their deaths, appearing as religious martyrs. In addition to these performative moments, the photographer documents everyday scenes such as workouts or moments of personal care in which the body is the only protagonist in this process of tension and waiting.

Felipe Romero Beltrán
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Felipe Romero Beltrán
Felipe Romero Beltrán
Felipe Romero Beltrán

Courtesy Felipe Romero Beltrán

Photographyconceptual photography
Written by Giorgia Massari
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