My Social Adaptation and Assimilation project reflects the ways migrants from Latvia go through these processes by the example of one family and three members of it.
The idea for the project was born about two years ago when I was dejected feeling that I still didn’t fit new society. The reason was that I always felt like a stranger even in my native country. I’m a mixture of different nationalities and cultures, and when a teenager I’ve heard negative opinions about Latvians, I’ve heard that Russians should go back to Russia, I heard many rude jokes about Jewish… And I was all of that and really confused about my cultural identity, avoided talking about it and felt ‘homeless’ in respect of homeland. It got even more complicated when I moved to UK and was considered as being Polish. Moreover I felt that I couldn’t integrate into local society. But at some point the whole situation turned upside down in my head, I thought that here, in Britain, no-one really cares about my nationality and cultural identity and I can be myself, take the situation into my own hands and participate in the activities that can help me to integrate. Thus also the final idea for my project formed.
The visual style of this project differs from my previous projects. I used to create story telling photographs with a touch of editorial style, but this time, influenced by exhibitions in the Impressions Gallery and at the Format festival (see research folder) I decided to follow current trends and make photographs in some simple visual way. ‘More simple’ was actually harder to do, probably because I tried not to direct my subjects too much, instead I’ve chosen to follow them and sometimes asked to repeat what they were doing. It was even harder to achieve that spontaneity in self-portrsiture, so instead I was selecting my portraits with a sense of self-irony which was probably influenced by works of Jo Spence while I was working on my dissertation.
The photographs are less saturated following one of the trends I learned when attending exhibitions and researching current photography trends. I used it to give the images an ‘everyday’ look, thus telling that it’s subjects’ everyday reality.
For her maintaining eating habits is an important part of adaptation. I’ve chosen the image of her cooking what’s traditional for her to depict it.
Keeping a bag full of hay in the bedroom to remember scent of childhood is another way for Leonarda to adapt.
Gardening is both adaptation and assimilation in her case because it’s what she liked when living in Latvia, but main source for her inspirations are English gardens. But it’s also about the process of passing her knowledge about plants to her grandson, he’s a great part of her life, so I’ve chosen the image with both of them gardening.
Visiting local parks and gardens is a way of assimilation for Leonarda. I’ve chosen image of her with the willow because it depicts her love to Britain nature.