In these images, I’ve tried to draw a map of my life by taking the random but tangible artifacts my parents left behind, the both of them— saved certificates, passports, and official documents. I think I did this in part because it was so hard to get those documents initially. They saved everything, so I would look over those. One of the goals of this project for me has been to use my personal material but to put it into a historical context. Using my personal experience and leaving it there would be of interest to me and possibly to my family, but I thought it might be important to place these things in a broader historical context, so that more people could relate to the experiences that I had.
It’s not just to bring those years back for the people who experienced it, but to try and show those years to people who were never there. That, of course, is one of the powers of photography. With the photographic image, you can put people who have never had that experience into a situation where they feel the power of that moment, where they feel as though they might have been there.
I didn’t want my images to be so complicated that people would look at them and say, “Wow, she’s really good at Photoshop.” I just wanted to be able to juxtapose the things that I wanted to juxtapose in a certain way — and tell the story that way. When I felt confident I could do that, I sat down at the computer, and the whole thing came together in less than a year. I worked very hard, but the pieces just all fell together. I guess I’d been thinking about it for so long, for eight or nine years.
People look in these images, and whether their life story is anything like mine or not, I think it calls up in their own memory a piece of their past that they see merging with what they’re looking at in my image. So, that’s been one of the rewards. We haven’t exactly, as a human race, gotten over our proclivity to rush to war, to treat each other in indescribably awful ways. Anything that counters that particular tendency to use power and might against the weak and oppressed might be a good outcome.