12 February 2016
12 February 2016 - Written by Gemma Padley
Natalie Naccache presents her project Our Limbo, in which she portrays the life of a group of displaced Syrian women, who relocated to Qatar, Dubai, Lebanon, London, and New York.
The psychological impact of losing your homeland and the difficulties of adapting to life in a new country lie at the heart of Natalie Naccache’s Our Limbo. In this series, the Lebanese-British photojournalist follows a group of displaced Syrian women who grew up together in Damascus but were forced to settle elsewhere owing to the Syrian Civil War.
The women relocated to Qatar, Dubai, Lebanon, London, and New York, but despite recognising how lucky they are to have escaped the conflict, each finds it impossible to call their new country home. “These women realise they have better opportunities than other Syrians and therefore cannot complain,” says Naccache, who is based in Dubai, UAE. “But this creates a psychological burden of not being to express themselves.”
Naccache began the series in August 2014 with support from the Arab Documentary Photography Program, a mentoring program run by The Magnum Foundation, Arab Fund for Art and Culture, and The Prince Claus Fund. She tells the women’s stories through photographs but also using material such as diary entries from their personal archives, and interviews, which she brings together in “a collaborative journal.”
“While following these women’s daily lives and spending time with them, I was getting increasingly frustrated that I wasn't able to get their stories into photographs,” says Naccache. “I felt there must be more ways to tell their stories. I spoke to my mentor Eric Gottesman and showed him a journal I’d been keeping featuring my writings and photographs (I usually keep a journal, it’s how I work through a story). Eric said: ‘why don't you make the story in a journal?’ The next morning I bought a journal and started to piece together the story.”
Naccache explains she gathered together screen shots of her subjects' Instagram accounts where they would post photographs of their homes in Syria and express how much they missed home. She also wrote quotes from the interviews she did using “expressive calligraphy” and included illustrations to get across their feelings. “As well as the journal, I also incorporated video in the project,” she adds. “The women allowed me to use [clips] from their home videos shot in Syria… I wanted everyone to feel what it is like to be displaced, to be torn away from your home, your country, the familiar.”
Natalie Naccache is a Lebanese-British photojournalist based in Dubai. To see more work by Naccache, visit her PHmuseum profile.
Gemma Padley is a freelance writer and editor on photography, based in the UK.
Early Careers focuses on a series by a photographer from the Photographic Museum of Humanity’s online community.