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Melissa Arras "El Dorado"
Melissa Arras "El Dorado"Photography Mellisa Arras, courtesy of Daniel Blau

The photographer capturing Calais migrants in limbo

This recent London graduate allows a peek into the intimate moments of the lives of refugees in the French port town

Calais has been transformed from a seaside town into a port for refugees escaping the turmoil of their home towns in recent years, and as ferry workers went on strike last week, migrants took the opportunity to clamber onto lorries in a desperate attempt to make it to the UK – El Dorado or ‘the golden’ place, as the refugees of Calais call it. Building the trust of the migrants desperate to find stability, recent London grad Melissa Arras has captured intimate images of the migrants living in limbo.

Arras’s images snapshot personal moments while exposing the conditions of life in the camps. “The biggest challenge was to gain the trust of the migrants, they did not want to be photographed, they believed this would not change their situation, as they are normally subject to journalists. Once I gained their trust they did not want their identities to be shown. I rose to this challenge by thinking creatively and quickly, in what were often fast pace situations and encounters."

Arras intends to expand her project around Europe in the hope that she can make a change. “Police brutality towards the refugees is terrible, many refugees end up badly injured even with broken body parts. They put all their hopes and dreams onto England.” Coming herself from a migrant family, Arras was inspired to explore the feeling of belonging in her work. “I wanted to capture intimate moments in the migrants’ lives whilst temporarily anchored in this new, surreal environment, proving their desperation in attaining stability.”

Arras's work is being shown at the 5 Under 30 Young Photographers competition on show now until 31 July at London’s Daniel Blau. Her work will be exhibited alongside her contemporaries, Alan Knox, Julia Parks and Michael Radford