More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people. When the number of fleeing people to Europe reached its peak in the summer of the same year, the photographer Felix Kleymann decided to follow them. Rather than reporting from the outside on the individual stories, he joined the people and mixed in with them. He followed the same dangerous route all the way to Germany, experiencing these people’s fate up close and personal. This compelling body of work will soon be on view at 44309 Street // Art gallery in the exhibition titled Escaping Death.
Instead of being outside, Felix Kleymann has joined the refugees on their travels. His journey started in Northern Iraq where he documented the lives of refugees in the camps that were mainly waiting to return to Syria one day. From there, he continued his journey to the refugee camps in Turkey where many people start their journey to Europe in hopes of survival and a better life. The road further took him to Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and the final destination – Germany. He captured the everyday life and hardship in refugee camps and took intimate portraits of the people he encountered. Completely assimilating with the crowds and sharing their journey, the photographer was able to create photographs that are not only beautiful and devastating, but also highly impactful.
Born in Recklinghausen in 1984, Felix Kleymann graduated photography at the Fachhochschule Dortmund in 2013. The famous Pacificação series, that dealt with drug fractions in different favelas of Rio de Janeiro, constituted his final thesis. Since then, Kleymann is working as a freelance photographer all over the world. He is particularly focused on social injustice. Discussing the making of his latest series, Kleymann explains: “I immersed myself, posing as a refugee. I never identified as a photojournalist. So, I traveled the same exhausting way as all the refugees. I think crossing the sea, being on that rubber boat, makes this story so special. I was documenting the subjects, but I was also the subject myself.”
The photographer Felix Kleymann brings forth the plight of the people escaping war, instability, poverty and death. We see people broken from war trauma, bored and without perspective in the camps, panicked at high sea in the night and constantly stressed on the long route to Europe. The exhibition Escaping Death will be on view at 44309 Street // Art Gallery in Dortmund from June 24th until July 8th, 2017. It will be shown as part of the f² fotofestival Dortmund that will present contemporary positions and tendencies in photography. The opening reception will be held on Saturday, June 24th from 7 p.m.
Featured images: Felix Kleymann Photography. All images courtesy of 44309 Street / Art Gallery.