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.

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