Critique – I Came By Boat
The photo campaign “I Came by Boat” is an Australian based public awareness campaign. The campaign aims to, “raise enough money for a campaign to demonstrate that asylum seekers are people with courage, humility, and the ability like all of us, to contribute greatly to Australian society.” The campaign is quite simple, as it is very much about the asylum seeker and their person stories. Each poster depicts an asylum seeker and a short paragraph on who they are beyond the title of “asylum seeker”. The photographs for the campaign are taken by Lucas Allen. Additionally, the coordinator for the campaign is Blanka Dudas, who is a successful international makeup artist and was also a refugee herself —from former Yugoslavia.
Much of the campaign was driven by Australia’s violation of international law when they announced that they would not accept anyone coming by boat into the country without proper documentation. The short advertisement was called “You will not make Australia your home” and it was released in 2014. Shortly after the advertisement was made public many people in Australia started to show their opposition to the video. In 2015, the “I Came By Boat” campaign was born. It aimed to not only support the stories of asylum seekers but to inform the Australian government about how these individuals add to society.
The portraits consist of three bold headings followed by a short blurb. The three main lines include the person’s name, occupation/passion and country of origin. By including every person’s occupation/passion these asylum seekers appear no different than the person who would be viewing the poster. The portraits depict dentists, yoga teachers, surgeons, chefs, and pianists. These simple labels humanize the label asylum seeker; which in so many ways has become a dehumanizing label.
The portraits feature refugees from all over the world—Iran, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and more. The diverse background of people photographed help depict the refugee crisis as more than just a one country crisis. This is a global issue that affects people in many countries throughout the world and the “I Came by Boat” campaign does a great job at approaching this idea. Additionally, much of the transparency and success of the campaign is due to Blanka Dudas being a refugee herself. She understands that asylum seekers and refugees are so much more than those two titles and this campaign really highlights this. I think Blanka’s role shows that a successful campaign should have refugees helping to create the campaign. In order to feature refugees, we must ask them what they believe should be highlighted and this is exactly what Blanka has done. I believe our community partners are helping us do the same, and ultimately will help us enhance the success and focus of our future projects.
Response to the campaign since 2015 has been incredibly positive. It seems like many people in Australia and worldwide were waiting for a campaign like this. The campaign’s goal was to raise $40,000 USD, which they were able to surpass by $70,000 USD. That being said the campaign did not make much money after their initial goal. Given the heavy costs of the huge posters and PR, the money is essential for continued advertisements nationally. That being said, the campaign successfully approached the idea of “who is a migrant?” a question many other campaigns have failed to answer or acknowledge.
Overall, I am a huge fan of the photographs that Lucas Allen has taken and the stories that Blanka Dudas is helping to tell. I have struggled with a number of the public awareness campaigns that we have looked at because they feature refugees and migrants in such a helpless light. The “I Came by Boat” campaign mentions the most simple but human details about these individuals—their favorite sports teams, something about their childhood, their passions and so much more. These are the simple details that help you connect with another person, even if that person is incredibly different from yourself.
I believe a successful campaign does not just aim to receive sympathy but also sells a change in mindset. In order to change the mindset of so many people opposed to the migration of refugee and asylum seekers we must tell their stories. I love anthropology because I believe it is the only field that makes changes simply through understand and telling stories. Once we hear another individual’s story we are able to make connections, experience similarities and it is here that true sympathy and understanding is formed.