Migration, abjection and visibility: the photographic projects of Sam Ivin, Melanie Friend and Yetunde Adebiyi

Rupert Ashmore*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the work of three photographers addressing the experiences of migrants awaiting decisions upon, or denied residency applications by the UK government. While Sam Ivin’s Lingering Ghosts portraits convey the emotional and embodied impacts upon migrants awaiting notification of asylum requests, Melanie Friend’s images of Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) investigate the spaces of exclusion and detention within the UK border control system. The paper concludes by examining Yetunde Adebiyi’s images of protests outside Yarl’s Wood IRC, Bedford and alternative communities for “non-legal” migrants in Liverpool. These images are put in the context of a process of “social abjection”, whereby migrants have been increasingly marginalised through negative media and government policy, ultimately diminishing or denying citizenship to certain groups within society. This raises issues of mobility justice, in that individuals’ experience of mobility is in sharp contrast to that of UK citizens and impacted by multi-scalar entanglements of other (im)mobilities. Individuals’ bodily and spatial experience of, and agency over (im)mobility is related to their visibility, and agency over being visible. By exposing the relative experiences of mobility and visibility the photographs provide a potential site of advocacy for mobility justice but can also draw attention to the unequal experiences of citizenship of subject, photographer and viewer. By suggesting that photographs constitute and engender a social relationship between these parties, the paper proposes that photographic projects might offer a potential “civil contract” between those with very different experiences of mobility, visibility and citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Mobilities
Early online date24 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Oct 2023

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