Portraits of a migrant
In the early hours of the morning, while the sea is clear, smugglers in Libya send off boats full of migrants that reach international waters by about 08:00.
Photographer Marcus Drinkwater spent a month onboard the Golfo Azzurro, a vessel that intercepts these boats and takes their passengers safely on board.
Beginning with a desire to give a sense of individuality to these migrants, Drinkwater took a series of posed portraits of the men rescued by the Golfo Azzurro.
Inspired by the work of Malian photographer Seydou Keita, who would often photograph his subjects against heavily patterned backgrounds, Drinkwater gave his subjects a choice of backdrop to stand against.
The different patterns, which doubled up as blankets to keep the migrants warm at night, were then hung on a railing on the ship’s deck, with cable ties.
While music played, the men lined up and waited to have their portraits taken.
Each subject chose his own background and posed for the portrait as they wished.
Drinkwater said: “I was struck by the confidence and spirit of many of these men, many of whom have been refugees since 2003 as a result of the Darfur conflict.”
One 17-year-old Nigerian named Julias had travelled with a friend for more than six months to reach Sabratha on the Libyan Coast.
Both boys were beaten daily and forced into disused warehouses without sanitation or clean water until their time on a migrant boat had come.
“If you are unfortunate enough to not have enough money, smugglers would get you to call your parents to ask for more,” he said.
“During the phone call they would beat you so hard your parents would hear, then do anything to find the money to wire over.”
Photographs by Marcus Drinkwater.