This project attempts to understand and help situate myself within my immediate surroundings. Despite having lived in Britain my whole life, I am aware of a feeling of detachment towards the British countryside that I spent childhood summers exploring. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that this feeling of ‘something missing’ stems from my own lack of knowledge regarding my family’s history.
My maternal father’s story has always been shrouded in myth and mystery. I know he was born to a Jewish community in Nowy Sacz, Poland and fled Nazi persecution across Europe until his family settled in South Africa and later, when my mother was a teenager, in London.
However, as I was rifling through my great-grandmother’s collection of photographs, I became conscious of the way I was creating fictions about them. I did not know these individuals whose solemn faces stared back at me from this time-capsule I held in my hands. They never knew me, and furthermore I had no one left to ask; nearly all of my grandfather’s family died during the war and my grandfather died in the UK when my mother was only sixteen.
I realised I didn’t want to make a project about these individuals but focus instead on how my knowledge, or lack of, has slowly seeped into my subconscious and permeated the way I view my own identity. Historically, the Jewish people have had to transcend borders, having never had a land to settle permanently. This might be where much of my confusion stems from; my heritage has been dislocated geographically and culturally.
What laws decree that someone belongs ‘inside’ and another ‘outside’? Is it the fault of our government and politicians, or our educators, or individuals?
The refugees who reside in camps across Europe, from France to Greece, are not only suffering from intense trauma, but equally have nowhere to call home. The unaccompanied child refugees who make it to Kent are encouraged to integrate within the surrounding communities, but are provided little means of achieving this.
I shot these photos with my grandfather’s Hasselblad, and for some images used Russian film that expired in 1982 (when my mother was the same age as I am now).