I will stay there, even if in pieces

Capturing the discomfort, loneliness, isolation, fear, and rebirth of a new form of the body

Story by
Zahra Saleki
March 1, 2023

These photographs haunted me as I sat with ideas of whose lives are grievable. I think about migrating refugees. I think about 2-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi. His small corpse. The photograph of his lifeless body washed ashore near Bodrum. These photographs remind me he, too, once lived. These photographs humanise mass migration of displaced human beings that deserve to be safe and loved.

We know the meaning of refugee. A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, or natural disaster. An asylum seeker. A person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution, or from serious human rights violations. A person who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee. A person waiting to receive a decision about their claim to asylum. We have all seen at least one photo, or read a newsline about their situation. There are too many of these stories.

In a time riddled with war, it seems as if every time we turn our head, we see a group of people running. They run away from their home. This group becomes so big that sometimes, we forget to see them as individual humans. We unconsciously learn to lower our empathy toward the value of their life and what they may feel. We think they are happy as long as they are safe.

This project is inspired by American surrealist photographer, Arthur Tress, and his work titled The Dream Collector. In this series, Tress records the voices of children, asking them to recall their dreams and nightmares. There are common nightmares, like falling, or being chased. Tress transforms these dreams into surreal images. The series is powerful and odd, raising questions about the nature of children’s dreams.

In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. The works of the unconscious mind traverse in a majestic storytelling, creating space for both ambiguity and precision. While there is immense power in documentary photography, this project is conceptualized in a hypo-realistic style, with the hope of creating a dream-like effect.

“ I will stay there, even if in pieces” uses photography in an attempt to capture the discomfort, loneliness, isolation, fear, and rebirth of a new form of the body. Each photo, either through its space, or form, tries to show the honesty and simplicity of these feelings. In one photo, you will see a woman with a shadowy face, her hand coming out from her mouth. This is meant to show how when humans go through struggle, we desire to run away. But, when we get out and are found in a safe space, we rebuild ourselves. We are never ordinary again. We become the most extraordinary version of ourselves.