Zed Nelson, Converted Hotel Room.

For the Photoworks British School at Rome Residency, Photoworks awarded Zed Nelson a research fellowship designed to encourage the development of a major project. Here, Zed reflects on his residency and the development of his latest work.

Over the past year, my time has been dominated by grappling with two complicated photographic subjects; migration and the ongoing drama of Israel and Palestine.

As a consolation for the seriousness of it all, I was awarded a three-month residency in Rome in Spring – with a large studio, a courtyard with a fountain, and free pass to the city thrown in. (Has anyone seen the recent film The Great Beauty? Highly recommended.)

But in penance for my good fortune, I returned to London during the sunniest summer in living memory, where I sat in front of a computer for 8 weeks in a darkened room, editing the material I shot in Rome.

I have now emerged, blinking in the light.

For this residency, I drove to Italy and back in my increasingly battered car – a 2,500 mile odyssey loaded up with equipment – in order to meet and interview the survivors en route. Here’s the route I took.


The Route I took: London to Rome


Conducting the interviews under specific lighting and sound conditions, I learned by trial and error how to convert a hotel room into a pop-up film studio. Here is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ image of one unlucky hotel room in the Netherlands that underwent my special ‘conversion’ technique.



The resulting work in progress is a documentary film, focussing on an ill-fated migrant boat journey across the Mediterranean that ended in tragedy and controversy. This issue has sadly just become headline news, with the latest sinking of a migrant boat off the coast of Lampedusa.

Zed Nelson, October 2013

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