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LCF23: Yiwa Lau explores complexities of societies other than our own

Person standing in front of trees
  • Written byJ Tilley
  • Published date 08 February 2023
Person standing in front of trees
Finding Home by Yiwa Lau - MA Fashion Photography 2023

LCF Postgraduate Class of 2023 features work from our three world-leading design, communications and business schools to demonstrate how LCF students look beyond the traditional notions of fashion to imagine a new and exciting future. A bustling two-day exhibition will offer a unique perspective into LCF’s postgraduate work by immersing visitors in the future of fashion through displays of design, film, photography, VR and more from LCF’s boundary-breaking students at the infamous Truman Brewery in east London. In light of the celebrations, we're finding out more about work from this year's graduating cohort. We caught up with MA Fashion Photography graduate, Yiwa Lau, to explore her film 'Finding Home' which explores the intricacies and complexities of societies other than our own by speaking directly with those that have experienced seeking refuge first hand.

Tell us about Finding Home – the film is incredibly moving and inspiring. What led you to share the story of those seeking refuge?

Thank you for your kind words. I feel like this project has been a long time coming. Ever since I was a young girl, I've had a big heart for displaced people. When I was living in China, I volunteered with the UNHCR (United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees) and got to meet families that were fleeing Pakistan and seeking asylum in Beijing. I had the opportunity to befriend them and hear their stories.

I became very close to one family that was separated - half living in Canada and the other in Sri Lanka. After they were granted refugee status in Canada, I had the opportunity to visit them and stay in their new home where I was able to meet the whole family. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to continue to build relationships with people experiencing displacement. When I came to London in 2021, I joined the Hillsong and Holy Trinity Brompton church café, where we teach life skills and English to asylum seekers. I was honoured to be able to make close friends within this community. I often hear a lot about their struggles of not being able to have a job, limited schooling, and staying alone in their hotels provided by the Home Office.

Another big inspiration was Serbest Salih, who is a pioneer in this area. He teaches refugee children on the Turkish and Syrian border about photography. He was gracious enough to hop on a call with me and give me some guidance on this project.

Your practice combines both still image and video. Why did you decide to mix these mediums for your project?

I have a degree in filmmaking and just finished my Master’s in Fashion Photography at the London College of Fashion. I love fusing the two mediums to create something that moves audiences, whether it be to action or just a different perspective.

People sat around a table chatting
Finding Home by Yiwa Lau - MA Fashion Photography 2023
How did you make the connections with those featured in the film?

I am quite close with the 5 participants of this project and was very clear with my intentions. I wanted to make sure that they were in control of the project and that they were the ones who had the creative power to take the photographs. I simply provided the equipment and framework for their photographs. Many of them haven’t used a disposable camera before, so being able to teach them was so fun! They had the option to stop the project at any time they wanted.

What have you found to be the most rewarding/inspiring part of creating this film?

There are so many people who simply do not have the same privileges as I do. I want to be able to give them a platform, to almost say, “you deserve to take up space.” I think when you are so focused on survival, it can be hard to share the complex feelings that come with finding refuge in a foreign country, where you know nobody. Everyone deserves to be heard.

Lots of notes on a table
Finding Home by Yiwa Lau - MA Fashion Photography 2023
What are you hoping that your audience will think and feel whilst watching your film?

Given our current political environment, I think it’s safe to say there isn’t a lot of empathy for those that are seeking refuge. I am hoping that audience can engage with the stories and be moved to action in their spheres of influence.

What are you most looking forward to about life after graduation? What are your plans?

I am so excited about what the future has in store! We were just given cameras by Shutterhub so this project continues. I want to be able to make this an ongoing project, with workshops throughout the year. Other than that, I am looking for work in filmmaking, as I hope to be able to tell stories of the disenfranchised, marginalised and minority groups.

What would be your best words of advice for someone looking to join the MA Fashion Photography course?

“Fashion” is a lot broader than you would think! Our course leader Paul Bevan does a great job at teaching us the many ways we can relate to the photography world without being explicitly talking about wardrobe and models. It’s up to you how you want to approach the course. Have fun and explore!

Finding Home by Yiwa Lau