Rocco Rorandelli


Trans Europe Migration

Following the refugees' trail

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In 2015, more than 1 million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe by sea, majority of them coming from war-torn Syria: their destination Germany and northern Europe. Rocco Rorandelli followed their trail taking aerial photography to visually depict migrations as a natural human action.

Trans Europe Migration

The Balkans have traditionally been an important transit route for those coming from Asia and the Middle East, thus gaining the name of Silk Road. In 2015, more than 1 million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe by sea, the majority of them coming from war-torn Syria; their destination - Germany and northern Europe. Following what has been termed the “Balkan Route”, refugees travelled across countries totally unprepared to deal with the humanitarian challenges and the internal social turmoil stirred by it. 

In Fall 2015, I visited southeast Europe to follow and document the trail followed by these migrants for the final lap of their journey, taking aerial photos. My choice was in part motivated by the need to visually depict this historical event as a natural phenomenon, followed by humans since they first left Africa over 100,000 years. At a time when the public debate had started dissecting the current migration by identifying “classes” of migrants, from refugees to asylum seekers to economic migrants, aerial views provided a more naturalistic point of view, void of ethnical or religious discriminants. Those framed under the lens were in fact just humans driven by their natural socio-security instinct - searching for a better life, regardless of their origin and destination.

What I present is a compendium of maps of humanity, details of which can be increasingly observed as one gets closer to the terrain. By zooming into these images, a complete repertoire of humanity gets disclosed. Their accompanying baggage reveals the unfortunate part of their journey, and of what it means to be uprooted leaving everything behind. The plastic bottles littering the ground along transit routes capture the scale of this tragedy. The smile on the children's faces, the hope in their parents' eyes, offer insight into the resilience of those who have endured this strenuous journey. The man helping a woman crossing a muddy brook and the volunteers distributing provisions recount the crosscutting inherent human trait - compassion. The couple holding hands is a discrete moment of intimacy otherwise difficult to find in a crowded shelter. And finally, the cameras pointing at those resting speak of questions still to be answered on how this migration will shape their future in Europe in the next decades.

I have been intensely interested in the issues related to migrations. Coming from a intercultural family – my father Italian and my mother American – and myself having built a mixed one with my wife coming from India, I feel that the world feels smaller and closer when physical boundaries are set aside.

Through this work, I have endeavoured to find tools to reignite the debate on immigration at a moment when saturation was being reached. Aerial photography proved to be a stimulating point of view to put this story again on the front pages. The photos were first published by Vanity Fair Italy and then appeared on New York Times Lens, Politico, Financial Times Weekend, Foreign Policy, Internazionale among the others. For this essay I have also been interviewed by BBC radio.