In Beeld photo story NRC

Photo series NRC In Beeld migrant workers

Project info: Spread in Dutch newspaper NRC on the living situation of Spanish migrant workers in a monastery in The Netherlands. The story was published in NRC’s weekend edition, on the website and app and the photography Instagram channel ‘In Beeld’. The text reads:
After work, they go to the monastery
It can be chilly in the monastery. Despite the fact that spring is coming up. Guerra Arroyo (26) wears a padded jacket above his shorts. He is walking through the long corridors to snow photographer Michiel Bles his room. In a niche in the wall a statue of Saint Lidwina stands with a cross in her arms. The wood has bare spots and she looks sour. A little later they pass the shared showers.
The Lidwina Monastery in Tilburg, The Netherlands, built on behalf of the Sisters of Charity, dates from the thirties. The nuns started a Montessori school and a boarding house for the elderly. Since the beginning of this century there are migrant workers living here.
It was a surprise for photographer Bles that the monastery has – next to the 75 residents from Eastern Europe – also houses 45 migrants from Spain and Portugal. Most work in distribution centers in the area, via an employment agency that pays the rent of 500 euros per month, withheld from their wages. Bles decided to make a report about them.
Iván Guerra Arroyo is an engineer, specialized in telecommunications and renewable energy. He comes from the South of Spain, city of Sevilla, but he could not find a job there. “There is a surplus of engineers and it pays poorly. Only after the age of 45 you can live off the salary.” He shares his room in the monastery with a compatriot, like all singles men in the building. The room has two single beds, a refrigerator with freezer and a TV. Gas, water, electricity and internet are included. There is a shared kitchen.
Oscar Pérez (26) studied human resources at the University of Cádiz, a city with high unemployment rates. He shares the monastery room with his girlfriend. Alvaro Gaspar (52) lives with his wife. He is born in Colombia and lived in Madrid for 24 years, until he could no longer find work. “If even young people cannot find jobs, I have no chance at all.” He has been in the Netherlands for six years and has lived in “countless” many places in the country. Now he lives within walking distance of one of his daughters, and his grandchildren aged 1 and 5 years. His other daughter still lives in Spain.
Walid Aguili Aguili (24) from Murcia came to the Netherlands with three friends. “When it comes to work for young people, this is the perfect place.” Although he might want to do something other than warehouse work, after a year and a half, such as sales. He speaks English, Spanish and Arabic. He calls the monastery the most beautiful place where he has lived until now.
Iván Guerra Arroyo wants nothing more than studying in the Netherlands in order to become an engineer. In his spare time, he learns English and Dutch through online courses. He’s dating a girl from the small town of Deurne, he says. The place he used to live. She is half-Dutch and half-Brazilian. “My future is here.”
Client: NRC
Media: Photography
My role: Idea and photography
Languages: Dutch
Watch the photo series on NRC’s website

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