Saturday 22 August 2015

Just the essentials

Like most Londoners, I move flats a lot. I've lived in 9 different places in 8 years, which I think is pretty average for this city. Because I move so often, I try not to acquire too much stuff; nevertheless, the last time I moved - 3 weeks ago - I spent about 4 days packing in fits and spurts, no more than 5 minutes in the removal van, and then about 6 hours unpacking at my new place.

This is roughly the amount of stuff I have (the furniture isn't mine):

My stuff

Conversely, most of the people in Kiki Streitberger's Travelling Light photographic project, one of several such projects being exhibited until 29 August at the University of Westminster's 2015 Documentary Photography and Photojournalism MA course graduation show, took only about half a dozen things with them the last time they moved homes.

That's because Kiki's project focuses on Syrian refugees who have made their way to the UK by boat, for the most part taking not even only what they could carry but only what they could stuff into their pockets, as traffickers want to use all available space on their boats for more people.

For the project Kiki photographed not the refugees themselves, but the clothes and objects that survived their perilous journey. The photos are accompanied by descriptions of the items in the refugees' own words.

One of the people featured in Kiki's project is Alaa (his is the second entry on her own website's link to this project), a 14-year-old student who chose to share the T-shirt he wore on the trip, his asthma inhaler, his glasses, a book on Arab history, a notebook and a report card.

I don't have permission to reproduce the photograph or the full text, but Alaa's thoughts on masculinity, based on his history book, are surprisingly insightful given his age - although perhaps less surprisingly so given his own history.

I'll just quote the final few sentences of his entry, which read as follows:

"The school report is my last one from home. I brought it with me because I want to show people that I'm not stupid. When I come and ask for asylum, this doesn't mean I'm an idiot and I want people to know that."


  1. Hi,

    I just came across your article. Thanks for coming to see our exhibition in August. I'm happy to read your article about my project. Like you, I was also very moved by Alaa's comments... thanks for sharing them.
    Have a lovely evening.
    Best regards, Kiki

    1. Hi Kiki,

      Thanks for commenting and being happy for me to quote part of your work!

      Best wishes,