After 20 years of working in the media, Melbourne photographer Andy Drewitt grew tired of the way asylum seekers were generally portrayed. For years people had come to Australia seeking freedom from persecution or conflict, yet images rarely focused on what that freedom looked like once it had been achieved.
In an attempt to humanise an often overblown debate, Andy began photographing people who had settled in Australia after being displaced by conflict – from World War II to the present day. Rather than the usual images of trauma and flight, his work focuses on what people do once they have the freedom to make decisions based on enjoyment, not just survival.
Andy is a guest on the March episode of the Kill Your Darlings podcast. On the podcast, he discusses the inspiration behind his work and what he has learnt in his time photographing asylum seekers.
Bibiyan’s uncle and cousin were killed by civil war in Sudan, and she escaped to Australia. Her hobby is playing basketball. She became interested in the sport after seeing Michael Jordan on TV in Sudan.
Rali survived a bomb blast that killed his best friend in Kirkuk, in Northern Iraq. He fled to Australia in 2008. His hobby is filmmaking.
Navid won Afghanistan Star, Afghanistan’s version of Australian Idol, in 2009. He became so popular that the Taliban saw him as a threat and tried to kill him, shooting him twice in the chest and shoulder. He came to Australia with his family in 2013. His hobby is listening to music.
During WWII Harry was sent to Nazi labour camps in Hungary and Austria, including Mauthausen extermination camp where his job was carting bodies to mass graves. He came to Australia in 1950, where he met his wife-to-be, Helga, who was a passenger on the infamous St Louis. Harry’s hobby is reading and Helga’s is bonsai.
Mariam escaped civil war in Somalia and fled to Australia. Her hobby is enjoying nature.
Imtiyaz fled ethnic violence in Afghanistan and became Australia’s first Afghani lifesaver.
The Khmer Rouge killed many of Hong’s family and he escaped through minefields across the Thai border. He arrived in Australia in 1981, and his hobby is bonsai.
Sahar’s family fled war in Afghanistan and came to Australia in 2011. Her hobby is playing with her baby sister, Soha, who was born in Australia in 2014.
Freedom, a collection of photographs, video and stories, is showing at the Melbourne Immigration Museum until June 15th, before running at Maroondah Federation Estate from June 20th to September 5th.