Research – Brits Abroad: Photographic exhibition features British expatriates in Spain

As part of my research into migration, I came across a photographic exhibition, aimed at challenging stereotypes of ‘Brits Abroad’. The exhibition was held at the University of York as part of one of their events looking at emigration.

The photographs in the series are taken by photographer Charlie Clift. He started off the series by travelling to Spain whereupon he began to photograph British expatriates who were living near the Mediterranean coast. I was particularly interested in this particular project because it is quite similar to the route I am thinking of taking for my own project. Looking at expatriates in other countries is a different angle on the migration story, as it doesn’t focus purely on the sad or the refugee side of migration. Instead it is more based around those that voluntarily leave their home country to begin a new life elsewhere. I am thinking of doing my project on expatriates so the project here is particularly interesting to me.

Charlie Clift has hoped that his images will make people think differently about immigrants. He’s visited many different places  within Spain and photographed each individual he has found in a location that defines their new life and gives the viewer an insight into their way of living. There is a whole range of different British people, including those who have hardly integrated with the locals and don’t speak Spanish, and those who have and have maybe married Spaniards and educated their children in Spanish schools.

Portrait photographer Charlie Clift said: “Immigrants are often spoken about in terms of statistics or stereotypes, but I wanted to show how different each person can be.

“Although many expatriates I met had traits of that commonly known figure of a British person living in Spain, they often surprised me with other parts of their personality or lifestyle. Almost no-one I met in Spain fitted the stereotype we know in the UK. By focusing on British people who are immigrants in other countries, I hope to help a British audience to think twice about immigrants in general.”

I think it is an important topic to approach because we have to remember not everyone who migrates, migrates because they are forced to. There are so many different reasons that people migrate and they don’t all fit into these boxed stereotypes of ‘migrants’.

It is so interesting and key to see the statistics and the reactions of people in terms of their migration-related responses of the British at home and abroad in regards to the current economic problems we have. An interesting point to be made is that although often, a lot of British people complain about immigration into the country, very few of them say anything about the movement of people out of the country or how we as British people are perceived to those in other countries. This could be an interesting point to pursue within my own project – how are my subjects viewed by the recipients in their new country. What is their outlook on immigrants and migration compared to the British views we hear about all the time.


Each photograph comes with a caption, a sort of narrative if you like about that person and what is represented of them in the photograph. The photograph itself is supposed to define an important part of their new lives, whilst the text adds a bit of background, such as why they needed to move, or what their life is like now. Everyone’s story is different. There are no two the same, however the thing they share in common in the fact that they are expatriates. And this is a topic I am finding increasingly more interesting the more I am seeing and discovering about it.



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