#MigrantsContribute is a grassroots campaign led by a coalition of 67 migrant-led organisations. It aims to demonstrate the positive contribution that migrant communities make to British life and to counteract the negative stereotyping of migrant communities that is frequently seen in public debates.
Ingrid Guyon is a member. This is her story.
“Where are you from?” resonates in my head.
After my 14 years in London, this is still the first question that people ask, as no one can ever guess correctly.
I am a citizen of the world. I am a migrant and proud to be a migrant. I live with migrants and work with migrants. If you look at history, we are all migrants. Why do we need to be labelled and judged depending on where we are from or even what we do?
Although I come from a neighbour, southern France, people forget I am a migrant. Like most of us, I have left my home country, my culture, my language, my family and friends and sunny Mediterranean coast and good food to start a new life in London.
I would not be able to live in a single-culture country. Multi-culturalism has taught me more about tolerance, understanding, respect, history, human rights, traditions, migration, politics, cultures, love and values than any school would ever be able to do.
I came to London in 2001 to look for a new life and independence and to practise my English, which I was studying at university in France and always dreamt of travelling and saving the world! But what I really wanted since I was a child was to travel, study visual anthropology to work and preserve the traditions and wisdom of Native Indians from Latin America.
At the time, finding a job and accommodation in London was easy and affordable. I worked as a waitress and met amazing people from all around the world and decided to stay. I travelled a lot with my new friends and developed an interest in photography while living in the small village of Uvero Alto in the Dominican Republic. Since then I have never stopped taking pictures and living and working with Latin Americans. While living in squats and juggling with crazy jobs, I graduated in photography at the London College of Communication and in social anthropology.
I found a home within New Generation, a collective of Latin American artists from refugee backgrounds who gave me the trust, space and inspiration that makes me who I am now. I worked as an immigration adviser for the Latin American community for five years and have been photographing the Latin American and migrant communities and cultures ever since.
My approach to photography and to representations of cultures, to news and to my career has radically shifted in the wake of my studies in social anthropology. In 2009 I established Fotosynthesis, a non-profit organisation that encourages social inclusion, self-development, participation and advocacy through photography.
I am also collaborating on a long-term project with Latin Elephant, a small charity that aims to involve the Latin American retailers in the regeneration of south London’s Elephant and Castle area, and promoting the contributions that we migrants make to the British economy, and to diversity and culture.
I am really grateful for all that Britain has made possible in my life and in the life of millions of migrants but I believe that each individual has a voice and rights and should be heard, listened to and valued equally.
We all contribute to British society by paying taxes, working, volunteering, and by bringing knowledge, skills and culture. What would London look like without migrant communities? Can you picture it? I can’t.