Retour Afzender (Return to Sender)

We all know about asylum seekers but where do they stay?
Practice Social Practices
Project Cultural Diversity
Major Photography
Year Fourth Year

First Research Award 2015

Lou Muuse began Retour Afzender as a photojournalist project. After registering as a volunteer worker for Dutch asylum centers, she was able to enter a parallel universe that is normally hidden to the public, even to news media. She ended up not simply taking pictures, but researching the system of Dutch asylum procedures, documenting its single steps through images and text on a website. The conclusion was simple: that these procedures serve the purpose of getting refugees out of the country again. With the escalation of the so-called "refugee crisis" in 2015/16, with mostly Syrian war refugees fleeing to European Union countries, Lou Muuse's research gained an urgency that she herself might not have anticipated. It is a form of research where visuals are neither simply illustrations nor visualizations of textual data, but where photographic images are the medium of critical investigation.


Since asylum and refugee politics are changing every day, keeping an investigative website up-to-date is difficult enough. One could argue that a book publication of the project is even paradoxical for such a mutable subject. But this is even one more reason for the hybrid publication of Lou Muuse's visual research, online and in print. The stable medium of print serves as a long-term archive where the medium of the website will be unstable and impermanent by its technical nature.

Check out the website at

Retour Afzender publication

Graphic design Studio Eyesberg

Public Award Steenbergen Stipendium 2015
Winner WdKA  Research Award 2015
Nomination Drempelprijs, Social Practices

If you are interested in ordering this publication please visit this page.