I went on a holiday to the country you fled from


By Iris Haverkamp Begemann in collaboration with Alejandra Ortiz

VOICE MEMO [29-09-2021 14:53] Iris to Alejandra:

"A friend of mine asked me to join her on a holiday to Mexico. It made me feel weird.. In what kind of system do we live where I can go for pleasure to the country you fled from, while you’re already stuck in this refugee camp in the Netherlands for 5 years? At first instance I didn’t want to go. But then it made me think… I think it’s interesting how we now could explore more this contrast between our identities and how this dictates our freedom and perception of the world”

VOICE MEMO [30-09-2021 13:03] Alejandra to Iris:

"I love this idea of juxtaposing, mirroring your life to mine. It’s good that you put your own identity in the front as well. You can be my ears, my eyes and basically you will be touching the same soil, breathing the same air that I breathed when I was little."

In forming a tight knit friendship, Iris Haverkamp Begemann (photographer) and Alejandra Ortiz (writer and activist) began to acknowledge the parallels in their day-to-day lives in Amsterdam, but also the harsh contrast in their lived experiences. Through conversation, an idea for creative collaboration was born: Using the inherent privilege Iris embodies as a Dutch cis-gender white woman, she would travel to Alejandra’s hometown in Mexico to document the place Alejandra, a Mexican transgender woman of color, left behind in an attempt to escape violence. The practicalities reduced to Iris easily applying for a holiday visa, while Alejandra continued to fight for her asylum in The Netherlands. The Dutch government does not acknowledge the urgent need for Alejandra’s documentation, attesting that Mexico is not recognised as a dangerous country for queer and trans people.

Led by instructions and a map drawn from memory, Iris traces Alejandra’s early life in Salitral de Carrera, Mexico. Arriving in the remote town, Iris is welcomed in a community where Alejandra felt both loved and cared for, but also extremely unsafe, marginalised and rejected by her own family. The cinematographic, earth-toned photographs stand in stark contrast to Alejandra’s handwritten notes, putting the harsh realities of her childhood onto paper.

This photo series weaves together experiences of belonging and rejection to create an intimate portrait of identity and the complex ways that it dictates personal freedom. Beyond these personal stories, the photo series is an open invitation for us to reflect on the contradictions in our privileges – our ability to make choices about our lives and our bodies – and our accountability in upholding the systemic inequalities that benefit some and can be life-threateningly detrimental to others.

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I went on a holiday to the country you fled from by Iris Haverkamp Begemann

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