Capturing the uncertainty and despair between couples that might be forced to stay apart because of the upcoming Brexit regulations
On June 23 2016, the UK wrote a significant chapter in the history of Europe voting to leave the European Union. The official break-up contract is still unclear, just like our life and future in the UK.
When Brexit was voted, I felt like I belong nowhere. Since I was born and raised in another country I arrived in London for a better life, full of dreams and hope for the future. After the referendum, I felt for the first time being exposed to racism and stereotyping. I was looking for a new job back at this time and it was scary listening to the phrase “without a British nationality I am not sure if you will get an interview these days”.
Besides the economy, the employment and the population Brexit has an impact in many other aspects of our life like Love. No one could think that love follows rules but in this case the greatest feeling might make an exception.
Have you ever thought that love will be affected by Brexit too? And if yes, at what level?
An answer to this question is given by Laura Pannack and her collection of portraits called Separation. This collection tried to capture the uncertainty and despair between couples that might be forced to stay apart because of the upcoming Brexit regulations. The portrait series was held by British Journal of Photography.
The couples that took part in the portrait series, are the ones with different nationalities, one half of each is British and the other is coming from another European country. The idea of Separation is based on the difficulty that these couples may face planning their life together in the UK and the bureaucracy rules they have to follow.
The emotion of sadness when someone else is taking over your relationship is the main reflection of the portraits.
BJP published photographs from the series and a few words from each couple telling their story.
Giulia and StuartGiulia is Italian and Stuart is British. The couple met at work. Communications Manager, Digital Consultant and Sound Artist respectively were planning to get married in the future but the Brexit reality forced them to change their plans, forget about the romance and become husband and wife in order to reserve their common life in the UK.
This is their story:
“We spent the first six months of our relationship trying to keep it secret from our colleagues. In the morning Stuart would drop me off at the back entrance to the office,” says Giulia, who moved to the UK from Italy over 10 years ago. “We later discovered that everyone had known all along. It was the worst-kept secret.” The couple used to live in London but recently relocated to Oxford. Stuart still works in the capital and commutes to and from it every day.
Giulia: Brexit was devastating. Stuart changed jobs so he could work on the Remain campaign in the digital creative team. The experience of facing a majority Leave vote, after six months of working 12-hour days, was indescribable. I have felt different in the UK since the referendum result was announced, and markedly less welcome. I moved to the UK straight after graduating through a six-month work placement, ironically funded by the European Union. Six months quickly became one year, and here I am ten years later.
We were planning to get married at some point in the future but Brexit hurried us along. We got married six months ago in the hope that it would provide extra security in the UK for me, and also so Stuart could start applying for Italian citizenship. We are both actively looking for jobs in Italy so we can move there as soon as possible. Ideally we want to be out of the country by the time Brexit has had full effect.
Mirjami and AdamMirjami is Finnish and works as Graphic Designer and Adam is a British support worker. The couple met on Tinder.
They confess that they felt the Brexit gap between them.
“I think we both swiped right because I had cats in my photos and he had ‘cat lover’ in his profile description,” says Mirjami. The couple spent their first date drinking wine in a carpark in Hackney Wick, a mutual decision after both complained about how expensive the area was. “On our fourth date, I stayed over at Adam’s house and found his old travelling journal,” says Mirjami. “I read it aloud, in front of him, and it turns out, 80 percent of what he wrote was about eating chicken nuggets. I think I fell in love there and then. Adam was apparently attracted to my bluntness and morbid sense of humour. We just complemented each with our quirks.” Adam and Mirjami have been a couple for two and a half years. They now live together in Walthamstow with their feline companion Tofu.
Mirjami: When Brexit happened, I took it personally. I come from an immigrant family and had been exposed to racism and stereotyping throughout my childhood. I was born in Finland but my parents are Chinese so I’ve always felt like an outsider. When I moved to London, I felt like everyone came from elsewhere for the first time; everyone looked different, everyone felt like they belonged. That made me feel like I belonged here too.
After the Brexit vote, I felt that same feeling I had felt as a kid, like I’m not wanted and I’m just a nuisance to the locals. That made me bitter and angry and I felt this massive gap between me and British people. As Adam himself is British, sometimes I felt that gap between us too, even though he did not feel the same way. Adam also resented the referendum result, but he has always remained nonchalant in his belief that it won’t have any bearing on our relationship and future.
Giacomo and Glenn
Giacomo and Glenn is a gay couple and they decided to live in London because of its attitude towards being gay, they felt free and happy.
Giacomo is Italian, working as a library manager and Glenn is British Australian working as primary school teacher. They live in Shoreditch.
“As cheesy as it sounds, it was love at first sight,” says Giacomo. “When we met up there was no expectations – dating websites are mostly used for quick hook-ups – but against all odds we fell in love. After 11 years we are still together.” Glenn and Giacomo’s love of the capital is deeply personal. “We both came to London because of its positive and progressive attitude towards being gay,” says Giacomo. In 2017, the year that marked the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, Glenn and Giacomo got married.
Giacomo: When we heard the results of the EU referendum we felt betrayed. It was as if a curtain had been lifted and we could now see Britain’s true colors. Brexit made us feel as if the UK is not as tolerant, welcoming, or open minded as we had believed that it was. Perhaps we were lucky, and blind to this, because we live in London, but we always thought that the richness and uniqueness of England was in part due to its multicultural society. I thought British people valued European immigrants and how they contribute to the development of the economy and society. But, with the results of the referendum, we felt undervalued and deceived.
We are married, but applying for a British Passport is very costly and requires hundreds of documents and forms that frighten me. One of the most disappointing things is that my husband will not be able to live in Italy with me, or any other European country. That right has been taken away from him. Against our wishes, we have had to abandon our plans for the future, which we made before Brexit, as it is very unlikely that we will be able to live and travel freely between European countries.
Love is stronger than any political decision and so real that cannot follow passport rules.
It is funny that Great Britain gave birth to Shakespeare, one of the most romantic writers in history and today Brexit doubts the power of love and spreads the fear.
As Shakespeare wrote:
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
Portraits from Separation were published on British Journal of Photography.
Credits. Photographer: Laura Pannack. Assistant: Jacob Schühle Lewis. Junior assistant: James Greenhalgh (winner of the Separation competition to shadow Pannack on-shoot). Editorial: Anya Lawrence. Set: Karina Valentim. Studio: Street Studios. Equipment: Direct Digital. Software: Affinity Photo for iPad.
Separation is a British Journal of Photography commission created with Affinity Photo for iPad, Apple’s App of the Year 2017. Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography