In Somewhere Else, Sadaf Chezari explores her personal experiences of migration, and the notion of belonging, through images taken in and around her family home in Tehran and in England
At its core, Sadaf Chezari’s project, Somewhere Else, explores the photographer’s personal experiences of migration through images taken in and around her family home in Tehran and in England. Chezari, who graduated from London College of Communication this year, and who lives and works in the British capital, was inspired by a previous project in which she photographed her father, who gave her a bag of family photographs she hadn’t seen before.
Through these family photographs and her own work, Chezari wanted to explore the loss she felt and the idea of belonging, she explains. “I made the decision that it was important to return to the place where these photographs had been taken. Migration is a common phenomenon in my family and no one lives in the [family home] any longer; the house exists in ‘suspension’, so initially I wanted to portray the uninhabited spaces. This is, in part, occasioned by Iran, a homeland that [for me] is distant and fading.”
Chezari took the images over the period of a year. The work is an engagement with cultural theory, she explains, specifically diaspora identity, which involves the displacement of a people from their homeland. “I wanted to convey the fractured and disorientating experience of migration; how the cold and sterile spaces engage with a sense of un-belonging and being in-between,” she says. “It’s about a condition rather than place, one that doesn’t satisfy a clear narrative. The project is about geographical displacement, the contrapuntal spaces of memory, and the fragmentation of experience and identity. It’s like being present in one space and time but simultaneously experiencing a different space and time. This is where the stillness of the atmosphere becomes engaging to the viewer.”
Describing her approach as “staged documentary” when composing her images, Chezari adjusted the position of objects within the frame, or removed them altogether. In many of the photographs, a sheet or some sort of material is often present, which forms a visual link between the images. “I was drawn to the sheets in the family photographs – the colours and patterns all had something to say about that culture and time. In each space I decided to use whatever sheet was there as my subject. The sheet is a key visual link that creates a dialogue between the images and is also a metaphor for diaspora identity.”
The biggest challenges she encountered were in trying to understand and place herself in one position, space and time, and finding a way to rationalise the experience of switching from childhood memories to the present. “Spaces where I had been as a child came back to me as flashbacks. Moments, voices and emotions came back in great detail, which I try to portray in the images.”