Questions of Identity

Carolina Arantes’ ongoing project, First Generation, explores the lives and identities of women who were born in France as the children of a surge in immigration from Africa that took place between 1975 and 1980, has won the 2017 Firecracker Photographic Grant. An initiative to support women photographers, the prize means Arantes, who is a Brazilian artist based in Paris, will now receive £2,000 as well as professional support services from the prize sponsors, Genesis Imaging, to help her to fully realise the project.

First Generation approaches questions of national identity through the lives of these Afro-French women, all of whom are resident in the Ile de France region around Paris, as they navigate the conflict between European liberal culture and the traditional education of their immigrant parents. Arantes notes that these women are situated “between colonialism and cosmopolitanism”. She aims to reveal her subjects’ quest for identity, while they simultaneously work for financial independence, freedom as women, and above all, for a socio-cultural space that will legitimise their mixed culture.

Arrantes explains that she chose to focus on the women as their place in the process of integration is critical, as many still carry the greater responsibility for family, work and for acts of cross-cultural transmission than their male counterparts. She comments: “Many use the word Schizophrenie to describe how it is to construct their identity in the middle of two antagonistic cultures.”  The judging panel consisted of five photographic professionals; Fariba Farshad, director and co-founder of Candlestar and Photo London, Emma Lewis, assistant curator at Tate Modern, Tristan Lund, art dealer and consultant, Johanna Neurath, design director at Thames & Hudson and Fiona Shields, head of photography at Guardian News & Media. Shields said: “During the judging process we returned to Carolina’s submission time and again and on each occasion were struck by the quality of her photography and rewarded by the humanity of her observations. She had such a tender approach to her chosen documentary subject that all the judges were excited about how this would evolve, given the opportunity to develop her project further.

Carolina Arantes, First Generation; 2017 Firecracker Photographic Grant winner. Find out more:

1.  First Generation © Carolina Arantes. A girl observes the buildings around. Deuil-la-Barre, Ile de France.