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.
My essays recounting the lives of refugees in Italy will all be published shortly here:
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.
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.
Writing essays about the lives of the other has always been an integral part of what I'm driven to do. You can read all the stories either here underneath (to come shortly) or on a dedicated page I created for the project Permanently Temporary for the Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati (to be published shortly). Being a refugee myself at one point of my life—me and my family fled the '90s war in Bosnia—I deeply sympathize with the plight the displaced and thus am motivated to show their true selves, their emotions and the obstacles that life puts in front of them. || For an example of my essays from this project, please click here and enter "CIRaccess1" when prompted.