“Writers and historians alike have elaborated on the impossibility for exiles and migrants to reclaim their homeland place – the ambiguous territory left behind or extinguished by physical removal and alienation. Instead they carry with them in their wanderings, as they traverse towns, countries and hemispheres, freeze-frames of constructed memory–imaginary homelands inhabited by their fearing and their desiring. John Berger states that the physical departure from one's original home involves an ontological and psychological severance that is irredeemable (1984:67). The source and locus of life is cut.
Edward Said describes this as the unhealable rift between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home (1990:357). For the migrant or exile, photography supplements oral histories, personal narratives and places of belonging. The circulation of photographs links and binds familial relationships across space and time. It works towards the construction of place and the articulation of that belonging. Photographs perform imaginative returnings to those places, communities and families left behind–imaginary homelands drawn into present day itineraries and lives. The photograph acts as both icon and narrative.
Memory is a bind that links us to place, time and country. Shared memories can provide a social cohesion, but they can also become our greatest source of conflict. Memory, it seems, is better understood as a point of view in the present, rather than as nostalgia immersed in the past. Perhaps it is only when we look back that we can make a certain kind of sense of what we see. The potential for photography is not only to commemorate loss, but to transform it. It allows for the re-imaging of new places of belonging and the production of new relationships to the past… ”
(Chris Barry 2006)