On Solid Ground, launched at St Martin’s in the Field on World Refugee Day, is a collaboration between photo agency Panos Pictures, the International Rescue Committee and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department.
The exhibition features photographs of refugees and disaster survivors from Croatia, Kenya, Mali, Jordan, Pakistan, Burundi, Croatia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, taken by documentary photographers Chris de Bode, Matias Costa, Shiho Fukada, Adam Patterson, Espen Rasmussen, Sven Torfinn and Abbie Trayler-Smith.
Each subject was asked what home means to them ( you can watch a video on the making of the project here) and their portraits and stories have been documented in the exhibition and accompanying newspaper (below).
The photographs are stunning and tragic – subjects are captured outside crumbling tents held down by rocks and makeshift breeze block structures; while close-up images of toothbrushes, playing cards and rescued family albums show people’s desperate attempts to rebuild their lives and homes.
Instead of being placed behind glass or in frames, the photographs have been printed on to two-metre high fabric panels supported by metal structures that are weighed down by water cans. The fabric is washable and the structures can be easily dismantled and put in a transit van.
“We needed something that would be easy and cheap to transport [the exhibition will be touring to France, Croatia, Germany and Belgium] – but the structures also reflect the theme of the exhibition,” says Roberts, who designed the exhibition with colleague John McGill and 3D designer Marriott.
“We didn’t discuss this at the time but in a way, the structures are like tents, and they can be taken down and put back together again like building blocks,” she adds.
Images are accompanied by printed text in three languages – printed in three different colours – and the bold title type (top), drawn by LucienneRoberts+ and inspired by constructivist and De Stijl lettering, is also designed to reference building blocks. The newspaper (above) displays the photographs beautifully.
“We wanted to be very respectful to the images – they needed space and restrained design. The subject’s stories are very strong narratives and we wanted the images to have the same impact, to get across what life has been like for these people,” she explains.
Roberts is the co-founder of LucienneRoberts+, a studio that specialises in “socially aware” graphic design. She and McGill have designed exhibition graphics for shows including The Wellcome Trust’s Brains: the Mind as Matter – an exhibition exploring human experimentation on Brains, heading to Manchester on July 26 (3D design by Calum Storrie):
City Speaks, which explored the influence cities have on individuals, communities and creatives in which photos were printed on to cardboard:
And in 2007, collaborated with Marriott on another photographic exhibition, Slave Britain, which highlighted human trafficking.
The exhibition toured cathedrals including London’s St Paul’s and featured images of men, women and children who had been trafficked into the UK. Their photographs were displayed in cage-like structures, which were easy to take down and worked as a visual representation of imprisonment (below).
“Designing for the photographic exhibitions is very different from design or artefact-based ones. With design exhibitions, you can be quite bold and theatrical but with photographs, it’s much quieter. You want the design to be thoughtful, respectful and more careful,” she says.
On Solid Ground is on display at St Matin’s in the Fields, London until July 31 before touring to Perpignan, Brussels, Munich, Berlin, Vienna and Zagreb. For more info, visit onsolidground.eu
Images (from top): On Solid Ground, taken by Marcus Rose and James Ward, Panos Pictures; Brains and City Speaks taken by Richard Hubert Smith and Slave Britain, taken by David Rose and Marcus Rose, Panos Pictures.
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The July issue of Creative Review is a type special, with features on the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, the new Whitney identity and the resurgence of type-only design. Plus the Logo Lounge Trend Report, how Ideas Foundation is encouraging diversity in advertising and more.