“Metaphotography” as multivocal documentary practice
: Visualising the lived experience of refugees in ‘The Long Wait’ project

  • Alexandru Beldea

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This practice-based research investigates a new perspective on documentary photography as a practice that includes and engages with the three parties involved in the photographic act. This multivocal practice encourages a space for dialogue, negotiation, and intervention attainable to the photographer, participant, and spectator. This space has been previously described as the ‘citizenry of photography’ (Azoulay, 2008), a paradigm that has seen significant transitions under the effect of technological advancements of both the camera and the Internet. The research is an exploration of the role of a “metaphotographer”, a notion coined by Fred Ritchin in Bending the Frame, 2013. The methodology of this practice-based research is inspired and aligned to the “metaphotography” concept as a practice that not only involves creating images, but also explores connections with other relevant existing images and materials, and ultimately contextualises everything towards a more useful and complex documentary practice. This practice-based research has contributed to the development of a set of methods as a way to exercise the role of the “metaphotographer”, with a focus on the situation of a group of 32 refugees who are now located in Tunisia, North Africa. Since their arrival, they have been taken through a process of identity reshuffling, in a country with no asylum system in place. This research explores alternative visual strategies with the aim to expand the understanding of the lived experience of refugees. This type of practice also focuses on the potential of self-representation by placing phone citizen photographs taken by refugees at the core of this project. The final iteration of this practice-based research is ‘The Long Wait’ website that acts as a representational node and gives the spectator the opportunity to participate by submitting a pre-drafted petition demanding international relocation for the group of refugees. This multi-layered documentary approach aims to generate a more comprehensive visualisation of the lived experiences of refugees, in antithesis with stereotypical representations disseminated and engraved in the collective consciousness by the mass media. 
Date of Award30 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLiam Devlin (Main Supervisor) & Yan Preston (Co-Supervisor)

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