Virksomhed Vollsmose Tailoring
This is one of the most interesting and unique projects I’ve ever been a part of. I was commissioned to travel to Denmark to document a unique project created by Danish company ISU Plus. The lovely ladies in the photographs have an inspiring and heart warming story to tell. Each of them are asylum seekers from middle eastern countries. I learned that in the cultures from which they are from it is acceptable for the man of the house to mistreat their wives. Due to this social acceptance, many women suffer in silence and themselves simply accept that that is their life. The women in the above shots have sought a new life away from their old misery. The Danes have a different approach to this type of immigration. Whereas is Britain, society “tolerates” asylum seekers but struggles to welcome them with open arms (due to numerous deep rooted political reasons). In Denmark their approach is in my view perfect. Someone wishing to seek asylum in Denmark is indeed welcomed with open arms, as long as they adhere to a few rules. If you want to be a part of the incredibly well oiled Danish machine, you are expected to integrate and learn the Danish language. If you’re not whiling to to do this then you’re not welcome.
I digress, these ladies have come from being beaten house wives to successful business women. ISU Plus created the company Virksomhed Vollsmose. The company gives these women a golden opportunity to integrate into Danish society. The business is run by female asylum seekers, based on a skill set which they have all learned as mothers – sewing. When I met these ladies, one thing that struck me was how happy and friendly they were. The Danish authorities had given them the strength to make the final push away from their previous abusive lives. They were taught that they have every right as a woman, and human being to change their situation. In their original countries it’s not acceptable for women to speak out about their abusive husbands, and it’s certainly out of the question to divorce them. The Danes lovingly gave them a new home, and taught them that’s it ok to leave the abusive husbands and start a new life with their children in a much fairer society.
I stayed with them for a week and they made me feel very welcome. They thoroughly enjoyed having their photos taken, I was told that they felt is was extremely empowering for them. Most of them had never had their photos taken before (aside from for their passports). The images were used to promote their work in a series of photographic exhibitions taken on the road across Denmark. Many of the women traveled with the exhibition to share their incredible stories. I printed and framed most of the photos at an A2 size. However, two of the photos were printed on a two metre high canvas. They absolutely loved standing next to these huge images of themselves. I was also extremely proud to see the smiles that my work had given them.
I should mention that there was a large language barrier. My Danish is very basic, I can say “I’d like a cup of tea”, count to 100, and various other very basic statements. These ladies had thick Arabic accents but communicated with each other in the basic Danish they had learned. I had a very good translator, Claudia, who I must say a thank you to for getting me in touch with ISU Plus!