Guided Into a World Unknown: Reflections on the Making of a Visual Essay With Refugees


  • Shirley van der Maarel University of Manchester



The constant presence of refugees in the media has constructed its own reality, at the expense of lived reality. Any work concerned with refugees’ lived experience will need to find ways to encourage people to see beyond this discourse. Based on research with refugees placed in depopulating villages in Italy, this article follows the process of collaboratively creating a visual essay that reflects the lived reality of refugee participants. The essay’s aim is to let readers share in an experience, rather than merely documenting that of others. This article reflects on efforts to achieve this through experimenting with the essay’s form, poetics and aesthetics. In doing so, the article discusses an alternative way of communicating research and presenting a visual essay.

Author Biography

Shirley van der Maarel, University of Manchester

Van der Maarel, Shirley is a Visual Anthropology PhD candidate at the University of Manchester with a background in Philosophy, Human Rights, and Social Design. Using creative and collaborative research methods, she tries to understand—with all the senses—how people experience sociopolitical issues. Her work has led her to create film, photography, and research projects across the world, including in Italy, China, Lebanon, Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria. Currently she works in depopulating villages in Italy to explore how life, place, and community is reimagined and remade at the edge of the world.


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How to Cite

van der Maarel, S. (2022). Guided Into a World Unknown: Reflections on the Making of a Visual Essay With Refugees. Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, 13(2), 207–226.