Invisible Cities Calais is a photography archive of the former Calais refugee camp, in northern France. Calais is a small port city roughly 20 miles from Dover, England. Migrants from North Africa and the Middle East began flocking there in the late 1990s, hoping to stow away on ferries and trains crossing the English Channel. Although the settlement grew over the years, the French government did little about it until 2015, when it reallocated all the refugees in the city and opened an assistance center.
The refugee camp in Calais, France, was known as The Jungle. Between 2015 and 2016, more than 8,000 people live on 45 acres not far from the sea. Clean water is limited, and sanitation is poor. Amid the squalor, thousands of shelters dot the landscape, cobbled together with whatever came to hand and reflecting the culture of its occupants.
These were the years of the most intense migratory fluxes, and in Calais, a key point to cross the Channel, the situation escalated until a city was built from nowhere.
While the whole European public opinion was more focused on documenting the crossing of the Mediterranean, a whole city was built in the heart of the EU, just a few hours away from Brussels, Paris and London. The city, mostly self-managed by its inhabitants, from the beginning, followed the logic of proximity. So when new migrants reached the place, they would immediately start looking for others with the same origins, so that communities started to flourish and neighborhoods (as well as restaurants and shops) were built.
Sick from the images taken by the press too often built with the intent of moving people to pity, Tiberio decided to portray the houses built by the migrants. In his visions, the houses, tents and huts reflect the culture and experience of the person who built them, but also their goals. Middle-Eastern communities are marked by more impromptu tents (i.e. camping tents), while African communities have built more stable houses. The reason for this is to be found in the fact that refugees from the Middle East (i.e. Afghans, Pakistanis) would spend most of their week trying to cross the Channel, and only return to the camp to rest or heal from their injuries. Contrary to them, refugees from Eritrea or Sudan would aim to obtain a visa to continue their lives in France. Knowing that the process could take months, they used to build real houses that could make them feel at home and protect dear documents but could also endure the hard condition of Northern France weather.
Over two years, Marco photographed the evolution of the refugee camp and saw it growing from a few tents to a real city with shops and restaurants. His work typically presents each structure against its real background. The photos are not retouched and they represent reality as it is.
Tiberio favored straightforward shots, letting the lines, shapes and colors of each dwelling come through clearly. The most intricate are made by African migrants seeking asylum, a process that can mean waiting more than a year for paperwork to go through. One Sudanese man topped his domicile with a thatched roof typical of huts in the Nouba Mountains.
Invisible Cities Calais is a collection of 101 pictures of houses, tents and public spaces built and lived by the refugees of the camp. They celebrate the determination and individuality of the migrants without photographing them. And it celebrates the human need for comfort, dignity, and security -a place to call home - even somewhere as wretched as The Jungle.
Invisible Cities Calais is now also the memory of the camp’s architecture. Here lies its historical importance. Since its construction (and even more now, four years after its destruction), the camp became part of a shared European social and cultural heritage. Hopefully this archive will help us not to forget a unique and unrepeatable example that will shape how Europe thinks about hospitality and migration.
Each NFT is initially priced at 1ETH and 10% of the proceeds will go to UNHCR until the goal of €30,000.00 is reached. The remaining profit will help me to keep working and expand *Index Tiberi*, spreading each project to a larger audience. Find the full archive here