In September 2015, photographer Aubrey Wade, Sarah Böttcher and Stjepan Sedlar set out to document locals and refugees living together in Berlin, initiating No Stranger Place. The project was born out of a desire to respond, as so many volunteers and ordinary people had, to the unfolding European refugee crisis. In partnership with UNHCR, No Stranger Place gained momentum and took the team, now joined by writer/producer Nadine Alfa, to five European countries.
No Stranger Place is about relationships and what becomes possible when people form them.
These portraits of refugees and locals living together are a powerful way of visually representing those connections, in a way we can all relate to. The photographs show people just like ourselves. In their stories, we discover what individuals have in common. Their shared values are stronger and matter more than their differences.
Chaim Jellinek says “integration is not one-sided work, it’s a process from both sides.” When people bring trust and a degree of curiosity to that process, both sides are enriched by the experience.
While the refugees get a safe home, new friends and family, as well as a head start learning the language, everyone benefits. The hosts, too, have their preconceptions challenged and learn about new cultures and ideas. As Edgar Rai tells us:
What my children have learned through living with Bilal and Amr, it’s invaluable.
The past year has seen existing divisions in European and national politics deepen. The people in these portraits, in contrast, are making connections that bridge cultural divides and language barriers, even as some European governments construct physical and legislative obstacles to stop refugees from working towards a safer future. We hope these portraits and stories celebrate, and remind us, what is possible when people choose to respond out of trust instead of fear.
Over the course of the past two years, the team has traveled across Germany, Austria, Sweden, and the United Kingdom and met inspiring people from all walks of life. Here you will find a selection of their stories. Watch this space for a French chapter launching soon!
To Anna Caroline Türk for facilitating our work as a team, to web designer Markus Wolf for giving No Stranger Place a beautiful home online, and to all the people at UNHCR who supported the project and shared our vision. Most of all, the team would like to thank everyone who opened their homes and shared their story.