Súil Eile was a participatory photography project aimed at promoting the integration of young asylum seekers into Irish society and encouraging awareness within the broader community of the situations and difficulties faced by this group.
Zoe undertook a PHD in NUI Maynooth focusing on the use of participatory photography in researching migration and asylum in Ireland. As part of this research, Zoe started a new participatory photography project with a group of asylum seekers. Zoë began Súil Eile as a six week pilot project in November 2006 in association with Interyouth and the YMCA, Aungier Street, Dublin.
Throughout the project, the young people learned photography and visual awareness skills.
Zoë believes that young people seeking asylum in Ireland can find themselves in very difficult and confusing situations, with little or no power to shape their own futures. By giving them a means of expression which transcends language boundaries through Súil Eile, these young people gained confidence in their voices and began to represent themselves and their views.
Zoe organised an exhibition of the images from the Súil Eile anti-trafficking project in Orissa, India (funded by Simon Cumbers fund). The exhibition took place in the Irish Aid centre on O’Connell Street. After the project, a photographic cooperative was set up in conjunction with Pragati, a local partner NGO, and four of the women are now earning a living from photography.
The image…works as a means to bridge the gap between the Irish and their new neighbours, a means to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes. By having a glimpse into individual lives we can move beyond the headlines, the statistics and see asylum seekers and refugees as individuals with goals, hopes and dreams.