King Street, Whitworth, Rochdale (c) Amy Romer
Amy Romer is the author of The Dark Figure*, a photo project that documents modern neighbourhoods in the UK where men, women and children have been enslaved recently. She is our guest blogger this week:
"I think, like many, "modern slavery" was a term that surprised me when I first heard it. I wasn’t sure what it meant. My questions went something like: what do you mean modern slavery? Surely slavery was abolished? How is it still around? In the UK?! "It was about a year ago that a friend working for Devon and Cornwall Police told me that, to his surprise, the police are formally shifting their focus away from incident related street crime and focusing instead on modern slavery. "It is an area of crime that is not yet in our everyday conscience, but with the passing of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and with a focused police effort, we are now seeing an increase in media attention, which I suspect will only grow.
"I soon became fascinated by the subject and as a BA documentary photography student about to delve into my final year, I decided to spend it working on UK modern slavery. "I must admit that at the start of the project, I didn’t envisage the project I’m now making. In the past, my photography has always revolved around intimate stories about people, which is what I hoped for when I started The Dark Figure*, but it soon became apparent that this wasn’t realistic. The vulnerability of the survivors of modern slavery and the hidden nature of the crime itself, makes access to such stories incredibly difficult.
Mid-tide, Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. (c) Amy Romer
"I became frustrated asking charities for help and advice for a project that had no physical work attached to it, so I decided to try to make work that relied only on myself. I had already been thinking about the places that victims are trafficked to and held, and what those places might look like. So I started searching local news stories about modern slavery by county, trying to find published addresses either in the news stories themselves, or through various searches of the named perpetrator(s).
"The aim has always been to try to make clear that modern slavery is not just something that happens to other people, in other places. It’s something that could be happening next door to you. So with that in mind, I’ve tried to make sure I represent a broad suburbia. "I’m also aware that modern slavery is a diverse subject, spanning across industries such as agriculture, health care and the sex trade to name a few, and a subject that transcends age, gender, class and ethnicities. All stories are complex and unique, so I try to make sure I am informative and inclusive of such diversity. Of course, I am always limited to some extent by modern slavery’s hidden nature which, in itself, is an essential part of my story. "I am pleased to introduce to you an exclusive preview of my new work, which explores several neighbourhoods of modern slavery surrounding Liverpool and Manchester. In a few weeks time I will be revealing these neighbourhoods, along with their stories, through my website and on social media.
"Please help raise awareness with me by sharing the project with as many people as you can. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or @the_dark_figure if you’re interested in buying zines of the work, for more details and any comments or thoughts you may have. I’m always happy to talk."