Photographer Jeremy Abrahams is celebrating Sheffield’s history of immigration in his new show, Arrivals, at Weston Park Museum.
He has taken photographs of 72 people who have moved to the city from around the world, almost one for every year since 1945. Only a few years, mainly from the early 1950s, have eluded Jeremy.
The recent Sheffield College graduate came up with the idea as a personal photographic project and tentatively suggested to Museums Sheffield that they might show his work.
To his surprise, they agreed.
He said: “My idea was that people would be able to see that immigration has been with us for a long time. Recently the media has portrayed it not in a positive way.
“The point I wanted to make gently is that it’s always been with us and it’s part of our lives.”
He has discovered some fascinating stories from the people he has photographed.
One of the newest Arrivals, Haji Dodla came from Ethiopia in 2012. When he was a child, he worked herding goats and sheep and he went to Addis Ababa University to study chemistry.
He became involved in student protests about his country’s lack of democracy and was arrested, then told he couldn’t continue to study.
Haji left his country for his own safety and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for seven years. He met his wife there and their eldest two children were born in the camp.
Haji trained with the United Nations as a laboratory assistant and hopes to qualify to work in a hospital lab here.
Jeremy’s earliest Arrival was the late Tanya Schmoller, who features on the Retro front page. Tanya died in January.
A Uruguayan, she came to Britain in 1945. Her father was a migrant from Russia and her mother was British.
She saw the first World Cup final in 1930 in Argentina.
Tanya was working for the British Council in Montevideo in 1945 when she met Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books
Jeremy said that she was told to show Allen Lane round the city and he asked her what she wanted to do. Tanya told him she wanted to study at the London School of Economics.
He offered her a job as his personal assistant so she could achieve her ambition and she worked for him for many years.
Jeremy said Tanya played down the job as mainly paperwork, but she worked on the company’s defence in the famous obscenity trial over the publication of DH Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (an adaptation is currently on at the Crucible Theatre).
Tanya only moved to Sheffield in retirement to join her son, who already lived here.
Around nine of his subjects came from the Pakistan-occupied area of Kashmir. “I found out why that’s been the case.
“Many of the Pakistani people said, ‘my father was in the British army’.
“One man’s father and both grandfathers served, dating to when Britain had an empire and India was part of it, pre-partition of the country.
“They felt almost partly British and they were invited to come here when we needed the labour.
“Zameer Khan told me, ‘They wanted big, strapping lads used to working in the fields in Kashmir’.”
Jeremy has had a long journey to fulfilling his ambition of becoming a photographer.
“I’d always wanted to be a photographer. My wife and I and our daughter moved to Sheffield in 1988. I came to train as a teacher at Sheffield City Polytechnic.
“At that time it would have been a three-year course to learn photography and I simply couldn’t afford it. You could get a grant for teacher training and I also wanted to be a teacher.
“I worked as a teacher for 14 years and then became an education consultant at Barnsley Council.”
Jeremy worked on planning the rebuilding of the borough’s schools, then faced redundancy.
He saw his chance to become a photographer at last. “I thought, ‘let’s do it’. It was a classic opportunity and threat.
“I found that I could do a two-year foundation degree at Sheffield College.”
He is now starting out as a professional photographer, “allegedly approaching retirement with a nice solo exhibition”.
You can see Arrivals until February 12 and learn more about the stories behind the portraits at Jeremy’s website, Jeremy Abrahams