Views From Expatria. Photographing Place and the Self In Transience
Series: Photographing the Unphotographable
In this series I consider other factors affecting my expatriation through views of place, such as photography restrictions in Greece, France, UAE, Italy, and in between and the weather.
In many countries worldwide, permission to photograph is limited and that affects place representation. In this series (and throughout Views from Expatria), I photograph and manipulate places in a way that effaces their placeness, so these laws and restrictions are not easy to apply. My focus is on expatriation as an individual’s lived experience and on displacement as a human condition beyond territorial borders.
Weather crucially affects photographic practice. Creating this series in different countries, I was confronted with various weather conditions ranging from overcast, cloudy, rainy skies and low temperatures, to clear skies, bright sunlight, and high temperatures. Taming the elements with digital pictorial practices, I created this uniform place amidst places, a place that exists between photographed places and geographically material places. A fictitious territory where the weather is forever stable, and the sky is steadfastly deep pink. These uniform places are a strong illustrated metaphor of social and psychological complexities of expatriation, which encapsulate the human need for belongingness, integration, acculturation, and the unavoidable pains of displacement from home.
Aside to these factors, I explore the concept ‘unphotographable’. Capturing images in between the aforementioned countries, I efface their geography. Consequently, I use these fragmentary views of place to illustrate a process of internalization of thoughts and feelings and to argue that the experience of expatriation has no specific latitude and longitude.This further advocates that being in expatria and in transience censors my experience of any country-specific place, leading me to portray an unphotographable place within.
To create non-country-specific, inexpressible, unphotographable (that is, esoteric) places, I use conceptual fabrication and various digital pictorial manipulations. I render them non-specific by not disclosing the locations and altering their surface with pictorial practices.
To continue portraying expatriation as a troubling experience affecting my life and creative process, I expanded my place-representation strategies to include on and off camera manipulations. I added soft focusing and blur, digital light room enhancements, and various plastic color filters in front of my lenses. This process is at once creative and radical, as it recasts the surface of the image in a process of metamorphosis.
I pay attention to avoid a complete indiscernibility of the depicted places, as this will totally diminish my passing through them. The soft focusing, the slight overexposure, the filtering and blurring of the surface and the digital treatment create a kind of mask or a tinted mirror cueing the viewer to forego the pleasure of viewing a country-specific landscape
My quest into this process is not technical or formalist, but dialectic.
I am seeking to convey the argument that social, political, and psychological intricacies of expatriation, as triggered by (and triggering) my views of place, are internalized. They create an unphotographable place within that censors my lived experience of any geographic place. Many years in expatria and in-transience, countries seem to no longer matter. This negation of geographic place has made me turn the focus on my personal story, and myself and has affected my identity.
This context can turn these fragments of ‘nowhere’ or ‘anywhere’ into ‘somewhere.’ In that way, rethinking place, expatriation, and transience would become possible. The work and the dialectic opportunities it provides make a powerful plea for change in perceptions of expatriation as a human condition communicated through photography. The change involves the acceptance of expatria as a non-country-specific place, not regulated by environmental or photography’s laws or restrictions: a heterotopic place where personal narratives of expatriation and transience can sustain autobiographical and epistemological enquiry.