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García Arévalo: Capturing 25-years of a never ending drama

Soraya Fernández

Frontier, Morocco- Spain. 1996 @Fernando Garcia Arevalo

Sanroqueño photographer, Fernando García Arévalo is preparing to publish a book about his exhibition ‘En lo más ancho del Estrecho’ (In the widest part of the Strait); a collection that summarises 25 years of intense work on the humanitarian drama that is illegal immigration.

Fernando García Arévalo

Fernando García Arévalo is one of the greatest photographers produced by the Campo de Gibraltar. This Sanroque-born photographer continues to take and share magnificent snapshots of an on-going humanitarian drama.

He is one of the most valued independent reporters on the Andalusian scene having received the Andalucía de Migraciones prize five times in his career.

It is precisely this drama that he features in his exhibition “En lo más ancho del Estrecho”, sponsored by the Provincial Council of Cádiz, which will be on display until next March 19 at the Baluarte de San Roque in Cádiz.

It is not just another story about immigration, but an exhibition of his photos and texts that collect together the impressive work of this photographer from between 1992 and 2017. It will also be published soon as a book form for which Arévalo has initiated a crowdfunding campaign through Libros.com.

Moroccan Widows
Moroccan Widows @Fernando García Arévalo

The title has not been chosen at random: In the words of Arévalo …

“It’s called the widest part of the Strait because I’ve focused mainly on what separates us. Despite the physical closeness, the distance that exists is, at other levels, immense. It is a distance that incidentally is widening with increased outbreaks of racism and more widespread xenophobia.”

It was in 1992 when García Arévalo, who worked for an agency in Madrid, spent a whole summer chasing photos that he thought would be unique. And most certainly they were. They were seen around the world. They were the first photographs of illegal immigrants crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.

“The summer of ‘92 was the first summer with a significant influx of immigrants that made us think that this was not anecdotal. It got into my head that I had to take pictures of the crossing. There was a demand for images that did not exist. I would travel to Tarifa at night in my father’s car and it was a matter of waiting. After a month and a half, I took some photos that went around the world,” he says.

Iraq Fernando Garcia Arevalo
Iraq @Fernando García Arévalo

And the effort was worth it: “Today, unfortunately, we are used to seeing all kinds of stories about immigration, but 26 years ago we weren’t. In this profession, the most important thing is instinct, and I sensed that everything had a history. Unfortunately, time has proven me right”.

His curiosity made him want to explore in depth this phenomenon. He has travelled to 17 countries in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Maghreb to explore the reality of the places of origin, passage, and arrival of immigrants, with many of whom he has spoken to Criminals dedicated to human trafficking have also been captured by his lenses, as well as many moments of anguish.

From all these years and experiences, García Arévalo has selected 25 thought provoking stories so that the viewer stops and thinks again about a tragic reality that persists and over which the excess of information and images have been able to desensitise us.

Frontier, Morocco- Spain. 1996
Frontier, Morocco- Spain. 1996 @Fernando García Arévalo

And it is precisely that, the lack of sensitivity and interest that irritates this photographer:

“There are people who leave their country for economic reasons but others do it because of conflicts, and we usually put them all in the same bag. It shocks me a lot to see that despite all the information available, a large part of the population is still uninformed.”

García Arévalo has followed the phenomenon of illegal immigration closely in recent months and is pessimistic: “It has been terrible but, unfortunately, it will continue to be.”

What do you think?