UNWRAPPING DIASPORAS Michel Huneault & Sarah R. Champagne 40
The virtual intimacy of money transfers
For thousands of immigrants and their families, the desire to break free from poverty or war materializes first in remittances. The routine act of sending a few dollars back home, carried out by millions of immigrants, amounts to more than three times the amount of official development assistance offered worldwide. Canada—with more than twenty percent of its population having been born abroad— sends more money per capita than any other country. In fact, if the 250 million migrants worldwide were to form a country today, its economy would be among the top twentyfive in the world.
For most of 2016, the photographer Michel Huneault and the journalist Sarah R. Champagne set out to document this hidden force in global economics and development. The two interviewed families living thousands of kilometres away from one another in Canada, Mexico, Haiti, Turkey and Syria, and experimented with shooting 360-degree immersive videos—videos in which a view in every direction is recorded at the same time—that can be viewed on a tablet or VR helmet. Huneault and Champagne were intrigued by what happened when they unwrapped the film onto a flat surface. The resulting images, shown here, are reminiscent of classical tableaux and of the challenging distortions presented by world maps, representations of the spaces both physical and virtual that these families must traverse in order to maintain ties.
The Rodriguez family on a Sunday, on their ranch. They receive money from Roberto, the eldest son of nine children. The sum is not extravagant. “Just to get ahead and put some ceramic tiles on our floor,” says Sofia Alcantara, Roberto’s mother. Migration shapes the landscape of some Mexican villages, resulting in the slow conversion of mud houses into concrete castles, empty most of the time.