Do you know who a refugee really is? It is clear that his life is not only that soul-wrenching moment captured in a baroquely composed photograph we all see every day. That photograph witnesses only a second—his clothes torn and dirty, his face tortured by anguish. Yet, his life has a beginning, a childhood, a history; his life is filled with hopes and dreams for the future; his existence is not voyeuristically deprived of context. He is not just a particle in a mass of bodies crossing the borders—indeed, he is an individual with strengths and weaknesses, neither a devil–nor a saint, and more often than not, more life obstacles overcome than any of us will truly ever understand. In collaboration with CIR - Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati, I travelled around Italy and gathered first-hand accounts of lives of refugees: from their childhood, their lives in Italy, their hopes and dreams for the future, to their feeling of being permanently temporary. The project consists of photographs and long-form essays.
While reading stories about refugees, it is often difficult for the reader to feel a closeness to the person talking or being described in the article. I always felt that it is partly the fault of us, the photographers, for we are not mediating this relationship between the refugee and the reader in a more intimate, non-generic manner. It is one thing to see a person in the mass of other people's bodies, and a whole another to feel as if we're sitting down at a table deep in conversation opposite each other. Thus, every essay I wrote in an attempt to recount their lives is prefaced by a close-up portrait that strives to facilitate this bond.
Stuck In Italy
While listening to their stories, taking part in dinners and sleeping in the same rooms where they sleep, I gathered photographs that strive to show their daily lives, their rituals and daily boredom they face while waiting for the asylum process to play out.