Daniel Castro Garcia
The Lives of Others
On 19 April 2015, a boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea with more than 750 people on board. Almost all passengers perished. The casualties, refugees departing from Libya, were on their way to Europe in the hope of finding a better life. It was not the first shipwreck to claim the lives of countless people that year, nor would it be the last.
Even more than by the disaster itself, Spanish-British photographer Daniel Castro Garcia was shocked by the cynical media coverage of the event. As the son of Spanish immigrants, he was dismayed by the fact that the refugees were mainly shown as an anonymous mass. It did not seem to interest anybody that each dead person had their own individual fate. On that very day in April 2015, Daniel Castro Garcia decided he would go and get a clearer idea of the refugees’ situation for himself and try to give them a face and a voice. For this project, he travelled to various places across Europe that were particularly affected by increasing migration: the Greek island of Lesbos, the “jungle camp” in Calais on the French coast, and the city of Catania in Sicily. Each location brought to light the dangers, challenges and complexities faced by people at their first point of contact with the European continent. Castro Garcia portrayed many of the refugees and gave them the chance to tell their stories.
Even afterwards, Castro Garcia could not get them out of his mind. He was no longer satisfied with simply capturing the plight of these people on film; he wanted to help. So, two years later, he decided to return to Sicily and work in a reception centre in the remote province of Enna, Italy’s poorest region, looking after unaccompanied minors. He stayed there until it closed its doors in 2019. The boys who lived there had all endured difficult journeys and were now stuck in a place that was not their home, and probably never would be. Through his close collaboration with them, Castro Garcia quickly became a trusted companion, allowing him to take extremely personal portraits of the young men and show them as they wanted to be seen. The result was a compassionate series of photographs called “I Peri N’Tera” after a Sicilian proverb that roughly translates as “keeping one’s feet on the ground” and serves as a warning to people not to get carried away with their dreams.
Daniel Castro Garcia’s work illustrates the complex and often traumatic effects of migration on the individual. His photographs pick up from where most press images leave off. Whereas the latter mostly only show refugees fleeing, he was interested in their arrival and what happens after. His poetic depiction of his subjects becomes a symbol of the hopes that are all too often destroyed by hard reality – by uncertainty, poverty, ostracism, and racism.
born in Oxford, Great Britain
studied Spanish with Management Studies at University College London, UK
awarded with the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography
awarded with the British Journal of Photography Award
is selected for the Talents program of the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam Foam