Life & Culture

Sobering Photos that Capture Life Inside the Calais Jungle

In order to raise money for the refugee crisis, Alex Franco is exhibiting a photo series that documents day-to-day life inside the now-demolished camp

Alex Franco is predominantly a fashion photographer, but last year he turned his camera on a different subject: the residents of the Calais Jungle. Erected in 2015, the camp was home to people trying to reach the UK, and its population swelled to nearly 10,000 before the French authorities tore it down in October 2016, forcing its residents to leave. Over the course of six visits, Franco photographed these people, listening to their harrowing stories. Though the camp has gone, the refugee crisis remains, something that Franco is bringing attention to in his new exhibition of these photographs – the money from which, is being donated to Help Refugees. Here, he tells us more about this series and why we need to continue putting pressure on our governments to act.

Remember Me When I’m Gone explores the theme of displacement. Now that the Calais Jungle has been dismantled, we seem to have deluded ourselves into believing that the problem no longer exists. However it does continue to exist, just in a different form. Inside the Jungle, it was pure chaos. The camp was divided into different quarters – Afghan, Eritrean, Sudanese and Syrian. There were shops, restaurants, a bakery (which only sold bread), hammans (hot showers) and bike repair shop… It made me realise that in even in the face of crisis, people’s need to keep busy remains. They just didn’t want to sit around.

“People were open to being photographed and telling their story. I heard a lot of stories – one that stood out was Mohamed Elmugtab Defalla’s, who I met inside the Sudanese Quarter. He remembered every single part of his journey to the Jungle. He was robbed and abused by the police many times while travelling through Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia, and recorded his journey in my notebook [see below]. There needs to be a real push to integrate these people into communities, so that they can rebuild their lives. We need to keep putting pressure on our governments to unite and take collective responsibility for this.”

Remember Me When I’m Gone is at Unit 10, Huntingdon Estate, London E1 6AW. Donate money to Help Refugees here.