Francesca Mancini – Asylum Seeking Refuge

Francesca Mancini

Asylum Seeking Refuge

This is the story of a young man aged twenty, this is the story of a man aged thirty, this is the story of a boy. This is the story of someone who, out of necessity or choice, is compelled to fight a system and to pay the consequences: forced escape.
He leaves everything behind. Family, home, girlfriend or often a wife and children, sometimes a good job and a bit of money. He has to say goodbye to the sweetness and the colours of his homeland for ever.
He leaves everything, otherwise they will kill him.
He’s an Iraqi, Eritrean, Nigerian. A Somali, Afghan or Kurd.
They have told him that he believes in the wrong god.
That land, where his people have always lived, does not belong to him.
They have ordered him to kill for a cause, whatever it might be.
So he escapes.
Convinced that his life is worth more. Knowing that he is young, that he can, and wants, to do anything: any kind of work, even the most humble, to have another chance, a new future, no matter where. He comes to Italy to forget.
The one thing, the only thing he’s looking for is a new system. To try and simply be what he is: a young man of twenty, a man of thirty, a boy.




Francesca Mancini made her debut as a professional photographer when she was 24, shooting her first international reportages on war refugees in the Balkans and southern Italy, and in Kosovo immediately after the war, and on the effects of pollution on the environment in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
After studying photography for three years in Rome, she worked for the Italian press and published her photos in leading daily newspapers.
From 2007 to 2008 she worked as a freelance between Kosovo and Serbia, documenting the social and political changes in the region and the difficulties linked to Kosovo’s independence.
In 2009 she started a project on political asylum seekers in Italy, which was published in the book Rifugiati by Christopher Hein.
Mancini’s photos have been published in Le Monde Magazine, The Independent, Newsweek Japan, Epsilon, Internazionale, L’Espresso, Panorama.

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19 Responses to “Francesca Mancini – Asylum Seeking Refuge”

  • It is not my habit to look at the photographs before reading the statement. However, I did so here. My very first impression was, “what a heartbreakingly beautiful series of photographs. Now that there is a story attatched, I’m even more overwhelmed. I LOVE this.

  • While I feel that this is a well crafted and visually proud essay, I do feel that there is a bit too much of a seedy nightclub feel about it. The failure to address the mundane, tiresome and boring of an asylum seekers life takes away the bite and reality of conflicting emotions.

  • I like it very much, fascinating photos with a special atmosphere. And the little visual surprise of the bird-picture. And the next surprise that it wasn’t the last one, which was my first thought when I saw it. But too obvious. So the real finishing photo is much better. But I like the extended version on the website even more.

  • Congratulations, Francesca.
    This essay, thanks to its personal and sophisticated visual approach, departs from the common imagery related to an issue we are used to see in Italian media. The decay of the housing structures carries both a meaning from a pj documentation pov and a resonance with the lives inside. #17 can be seen as a low-key interpretation of the peace dove… and I agree with nana above about the final sequence.

  • Very modern, meaning lots of very dark, fuzzy photos. I wonder if we are going to someday look back and laugh at photos from this period like we do popcorn ceilings from the 1970’s? The photographer is good, but is boxed in by the esthetic.


    well in a way, i do know where you are coming from on this, but isn’t this a very old aesthetic? Gene Smith? Gordon Parks? Charles Harbutt? i don’t see many “fuzzy” photos here, actually only 3 out of 18 photos could be described as not tack sharp…about 3.6 percent….hell, 3.6 % of life IS fuzzy….

    seriously yes, many photographers do seem to get “boxed in” as you describe…yet i think Francesca manages to get past this potential block by simply having some brilliant imagery…great pictures usually make me forget the academics of themselves…i get lost in the moment…i sure did here anyway…

  • I like the photographs, a lot. At first I didn’t think that they illustrated the essay title or intro i.e. asylum and seeking refuge but then I realized that this must be how it feels to be in the asylum process: isolated, cut off from everyday normality, almost in a netherworld. Great use of (minimal) colour too.

    Congratulations Francesca!


  • Hello Francesca. Thanks for submitting this work for us to see.

    I felt the images were striking, and the subject immediately interested me. This is a subject we wrestle with here in London -often with the same migrant populations, who have come via other European countries- and it was interesting to see it being mirrored so closely in Italy. You’ve obviously gotten some great access for these shots… well done amigo.

    What I’m wondering is: have you finished the project, or are you still working on it? This is a big subject, with other facets that I feel you could perhaps work on, to broaden the essay – for example the migrants’ interaction with police/ social workers, the boredom, etc. Perhaps it could also include more positive imagery of migrants who have successfully achieved asylum?

    Anyway, thanks again. A very worthwhile subject, explored with a curious eye.

  • wow and wow and wow again. really though I dont have much more than that.

  • Powerful, strange, images, all – quite the essay for Thanksgiving day.

  • I was happy this turned out to offer insider impressions and images rather than more objective photographs from a distance. I’ve seen many pictures of refugees and have a strong sense of what they “should” look like, but this series made me think I was missing the obvious. Contrary to Imants, I thought “mundane” and “boring” was a theme, not seediness, or that’s just what I picked up on. I appreciated the silhouettes, but they may be overused IMO. Like others, I wanted to comment on #17 and the closer — a great ending, clever but not overdone.

  • Piacere Francesca. Congratulazioni!

    Straordinario lavoro.

  • only 3 out of 18 photos could be described as not tack sharp…about 3.6 percent….

    Wow, the math…. you really are partying hard down there in Rio, David! :-)))

  • except that the math is wrong :) its them funny rio cigars I reckon.
    Its 16 2/3%

  • DAVID!!! I am worried indeed…. Please, look at my hand…. How many fingers?….. :-)))))

  • Number 17 is the most beautiful shot I’ve seen in weeks. The whole series is absolutely fantastic. Thanks again for printing these…it’s a pleasure to see such a great artist going after light and beauty.

  • 36 % of life is fuzzy imho

  • I don’t know what to say. But I am now typing and that is more than I have said about any other essay on burn for a long time so I guess I like it. Actually I like it a lot. Picture of the bird is too bright and sharp for me, it dominates the sequence. It needs to be blurred and darkened by about 3.6%.

  • Very evocative images of the shabby sort of limbo so many find themselves in, shot through with the ragged hopes and optimism that are the only way through for people. Great stuff.

    I’m not usually one for this, but within this context, 17 — while beautiful and fitting in subject — feels to me like it needs darker treatment, maybe vignetting. Maybe in a while it will fit for me as it is, though, I suppose.

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