Born in 1970, Olivier Jobard entered the École Louis Lumière in 1990. After completing an internship at Sipa Press, he joined Sipa as a staff photographer in 1992.
His work has taken him around the world and into the heart of conflict zones in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Colombia, Croatia, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan.
In 2004, he documented the passage of one immigrant from Cameroon to France over the course of six months. This human adventure resulted in a book published by Marval Publishers in France.
The United Kingdom is the most popular destination for immigrants in Europe. Some travel there because of family connections or cultural ties; others put themselves in the hands of smugglers, abandoning any control over their final destination.
In 2000, I visited the now-closed Red Cross shelter in Sangatte, France, just down the road from the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. The shelter was established to aid the large numbers of migrants who gathered there, waiting for their chance to cross the channel through the tunnel or on ferries.
Many of the migrants were fleeing conflicts in Africa and elsewhere that I had covered as a photojournalist. For two years I returned periodically to Sangatte, listening to people recount their journeys from distant lands, and express their hopes for a better life in Europe.
After listening to their stories, I felt compelled to document their passage—to put faces to those usually called “sans-papiers,” people without papers. I decided to accompany one migrant on his six-month trek across half of Africa.
Kingsley is a 23-year-old lifeguard from the West African coastal town of Limbe, Cameroon. Kingsley worked at an upscale hotel giving swimming lessons to European tourists. He earned 50 euros a month, just enough to pay for food and rent for the two-room house he shared with his parents and seven siblings.
In Limbe, almost every person talked about crossing the desert to get to Europe. Kingsley believed in the European dream. In 2004, he left Cameroon on an excruciating six-month journey. He crossed Nigeria, Niger, the Sahara Desert, and Algeria. The driver of the truck had to stop often because of engine problems. Other migrants joined the caravan or left. The more they drove, the more they suffered from the heat, sun, and dust. Finally, he reached Morocco. He waited there for three months before boarding a makeshift skiff bound for the Canary Islands. For Kingsley, crossing the desert and the ocean was the only way to make it out. And six months after leaving Cameroon, he finally set foot on European soil.
I hope that Kingsley’s journey shows the willingness of people to abandon everything—family, culture, and past—for the dream of finding a better life abroad.
—Olivier Jobard, June 2007