In October 2002 I came to Madrid with a car load of luggage to live here for an uncertain time. I had saved money for about six month if I would be able to live somewhat economical. After those six month I wanted to decide if stay and look for a job or go back to Germany. In January Ahmed, a friend of mine, told me about a Spanish language school, which only costs EUR 10,- a year. But he also said that there would only be Africans, Arabs and Eastern Europeans. Who cares I thought. I don ́t have prejudices against anybody and I am a foreigner here myself.
When we met at this school a couple of days later, waiting in the office,I had a very strong desire to get up and leave. The furniture looked like third hand at least and we had to wait together with Africans, Arabs, Eastern Europeans and god knows what else and who all looked somwhat strange to me. The thought which spontaniously crossed my mind was: “You don ́t have to do this here. This is below your level.” I always thought of myself as being a somewhat liberal person without prejudices. And I certainly recognized immediatly that these thoughts which came uncontrolled out of my unconciousness were nonsense.
Apart from that it would have been very embarrassing for me since Ahmed had told me the details in advance. The thoughts could not be made undone. But I made a deal with myself to come for a week and stay away then.
After that week I had no intention at all to stayaway. Not only that I improved my Spanish but also learned exciting things about countries and life. Things I ́d never learned about by merely reading books or watching TV. And that way immigrants turned into people and a portrait I originally took for myself turned into this project.
This photos was taken years later for a different project. But it kind of fits into the topic.
I asked many of the people of this project if prejudices against foreigners from other countries would exist there. And to my surprise they told me after thinking it over for a couple of seconds that some foreigners from some countries would be by far more unpopular than others. I know the arguments against immigrants from Germany. And here in Spain they were exactly the same. It seems logical that fear “for overimmigration” and of others who also want a piece from the cake was more or less a subject of the western countries. But the more people I asked, the more countries I had to add to this club. And although I could not ask people of every single country of the world, I was more and more convinced that prejudice is not a matter of wealth or poverty, of the education level skin color or religion but a characteristic of the human beeing. That fear against everything that is unfamilar is an evolutional principle, sitting deep in our genes. How strong it is I could see at myself.
Immigrant is an abstract expression. We would hardly call somebody an immigrant if we have a personal relationship to that other person. Again, that was my experience after a couple of days at the school. But how could I show this effect? Only fotos would not make a difference and I asked people to describe an event out of the life before they left home. When I developed the concept and spoke to the people I realized that many stories just could have happened in my life.