“I tried to keep my perspective out of it and allow the people to speak for themselves,” says photographer Jeremy Abrahams, whose latest exhibition brings the personal impact of the UK’s vote to leave the EU sharply into focus.
“But I guess in choosing this particular subject, and framing it so personally, clearly it was going to encourage people who were unhappy about Brexit to come forward.”
Many Europeans have found partners who are UK citizens, and couples settled in Sheffield face a dilemma as the details of Britain’s EU withdrawal - decisions that will define their future status - are ironed out.
City photographer Jeremy has created a project called Remain/Leave, capturing images of and interviewing 20 such couples in a bid, he says, to explore their ‘complex emotions’.
The pictures will be on show at Sheffield railway station this month, starting on Sunday.
Jeremy’s assignment evolved out of his previous exhibition, Arrivals: Making Sheffield Home, which took place at Weston Park Museum and highlighted the stories of people who have moved here from overseas.
He built up a network of contacts, and was approached following the June 2016 referendum by those unhappy with the result.
Sheffield mirrored the national picture, voting in favour of Brexit by 51 per cent.
“If you’re a European and you have met someone who is a British citizen inevitably the situation is not going to be to your liking,” says Jeremy, who took up professional photography after being made redundant from his job as an education consultant with Barnsley Council in 2013.
The majority of the interviewees make their feelings plain - UK-born Sian Thomas and her Belgian partner Michael Wutyens are ‘scared’ about society becoming more unstable while Frenchman Etienne Dunant, the partner of Paul James Cardwell, says he feels ‘almost denied’ his Britishness.
He said two of the couples had left a marked impression on him. Anna, a young Polish woman working as a researcher at Sheffield University, was ‘very upset’ at the implications of the vote for her relationship with boyfriend Kevin, born and brought up in Sheffield, he says.
“She said the day after the referendum her British neighbours came round with a bunch of flowers for her, with tears in their eyes, saying how upset they were about the decision that had been taken, and that they didn’t feel that way.”
Meanwhile, for Swedish citizen Max Fajman, in a relationship with UK resident Irenie Zelickman, the poll had uncomfortable echoes of the 1940s.
His parents spent six years in concentration camps and were taken to Sweden by the Red Cross in 1945, three years before his birth.
“Being part of the EU has made him feel secure, and feel that those sorts of events were not going to happen again,” says Jeremy, adding: “The EU has led to the absence of war in Western Europe throughout its existence.”
The exhibition - part of Sheffield University’s Migration Research Group’s contribution to the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2017 - will take place from Sunday until November 29 in the station, opposite M&S.
On Monday the university is hosting a discussion called ‘Brexit & EU Nationals - Your Questions Answered’ in the Adelphi Room at the Crucible Theatre from 6pm, considering what leaving the EU might mean for legal, family and worker rights.
Jeremy will be at the station talking about his photos beforehand from 5pm to 5.30pm.