Ruido Photo – Empowering Young Migrants Through Media Skills

Year of production: 2023

Ruido Photo is a non-profit organisation based in Barcelona, Spain, that is dedicated to highlighting social issues and promoting the education of social development through documentary photography. Ruido Photo not only creates documentary image products; it also produces awareness and educational campaigns through exhibitions, conferences and talks, publications in the general media and social media campaigns. They have a long-standing history in conducting participatory workshops for young people by using visual language workshops to give members of a group the opportunity to document their own reality through photography and video.

In the Media and Information Literacy study visit, organised by SALTO Participation and Information in cooperation with Nexes Interculturals, we had an opportunity to learn how Ruido Photo uses media and visual storytelling to empower young people who come from a very difficult background.

I met their representatives, Júlia Farrás Riu and Laia Gómez-Franco, after a workshop they gave to our participants, and I found myself thrilled and shocked simultaneously. On the one hand, the reason is their social mission, which has crept under my skin, and on the other hand, are the people’s stories, which they shared with us with the aid of photos, and which touched everyone deeply.

Educational project coordinator Laia says that the mission of Ruido Photo is to change the social perception of migrants. They do this by showing a new version of the stories, by giving a new narrative. During their eighteen years of operation, their tools have been documentary movies and photography, through which they educate both young people and adults. In this way, they increase people’s media literacy because they show stories that are not covered by traditional media. In addition to understanding media and being able to critically evaluate content, a significant aspect of media literacy is being able to use media and create media, and Ruido Photo gives us a great deal of inspiration on how media creation skills can empower vulnerable groups and create a fairer representation of these groups in the media.

Increasing understanding through thrilling life stories

Ruido Photo has also received recognition for their work. In 2019, the National Geographic Society recognised them with a grant that allowed them to explore with the help of photographers what happens with migration in countries of origin, transit and destination in Africa. A team of journalists went on fieldwork from Ethiopia to Algeria to uncover how migrants live when they arrive in a destination country like Spain.

The Backway project, which lasted for three years, revealed in a journalistic way the reasons that force people to migrate, and it also addressed the human rights violations that occurred on the life-threatening route. The photos showed how thousands of people migrate from Africa to Europe every year in the hope of a better life. On a journey of thousands of kilometres, they must deal with human traffickers, harsh desert conditions and in some cases being forced to sell their bodies. These people often become victims of threats, violence and even slavery. With the help of texts and images, Ruido Photo unveiled the migration paths leading to Europe, and as a result of the project, a photo book was born. Now entirely based on these experiences of real people, workshops are held for young people and others interested in helping to break the stigmas around migration.

The workshop had a great emotional impact, which did not leave those who participated in it as observers untouched. We, as the workshop participants, had an opportunity to travel from Africa to Europe ourselves. We had to constantly decide, as new circumstances came to light, whether to continue the journey or abandon it and return home. The longer the journey went on, the more of us decided to discontinue for a simple reason: it became too dangerous.

Each photo and text in this workshop opened a hidden world, which was unknown to Europeans, and the eyes of the people in the photos deeply touched the soul as well. Just a photo showing a phone with a cracked screen, or a photo of a person at a migrant gathering point with „Europe or nothing else“ written on the wall behind them, clearly showed how a picture can speak more than a thousand words.

With a workshop like this, Ruido Photo seeks critical reflection of the discourses of fear that are disseminated from the hegemonic powers, and they demonstrate and make known the human rights violations that occur during the migration processes. This is another example of how media can be positively used to encourage participation and tolerance and support  human rights education.

Empowering and connecting young people through photography

Ruido Photo also works with minors that have arrived from Morocco without any adult companion. To live in Spain, they have all taken the journey, risked their life and gone through difficulties in life.

Julia Farràs Riu describes the participatory photography project “Underexposed” which started in 2019. Half of the group were young Moroccan people who came to Spain without an adult reference and the other half were Catalan teenagers. They joined together in a nonformal educational project in which each of them took pictures of themselves and their living environments and explained their stories, thus fostering a relationship between the two groups that would otherwise not meet and interact.

“They become the protagonists of their stories. They tell their own stories. It’s not like someone else is telling their stories,” Julia says, addressing the importance of giving young people the skills and space to create media. She finds that by organising projects like this, they create a space where youngsters can achieve social recognition, and they can also build up relationships with people that are different from their everyday social groups.

Tackling racism and discrimination

Ruido Photo has also dealt in depth with the topic of racism and human rights. For example, they have made photo projects that portrait assaults, abuse, humiliation, violence and hatred in Catalonia where they admit that there are racist attacks every day. One of their impressive projects, called “Illustrated Archive of Hate”, collects and tells the stories of the victims. The captions reveal a horrifying world that shows just how helpless people are when racist comments are made. Their project makes it quite apparent that racism exists in various forms and encourages us to rise up against it. The project can be viewed here:
According to Ruido Photo member Júlia, one of their goals is to contribute to global justice in addition to the social perspective. Anthropologist Laia, who works with Ruido Photo’s educational programmes, says that when they can exhibit stories or share them in workshops, the audience is brought along by them, and they in Ruido Photo feel like they are making a difference in society.

Having experienced Ruido Photo’s project, I can say with confidence that they are definitely able to make a change in the world through their social and artistic work.


Photo of Piret Jaaks
Piret Jaaks

Piret works as a freelance writer, journalist and public relations professional. She holds a PhD in Performing Arts and strives to weave ethnographic perspectives into all of her writing about people in our diverse world. Having worked for quite a while in the international civic movement World Cleanup Day, which focuses on promoting waste clean-ups around the globe, Piret knows well that the dark side of life must be talked about without embellishing it.  That’s why she believes that in today's fragmented world it is very important that all people have Media and Information Literacy skills in order to make the right decisions on important life issues.