2017 - 2020
NAOMI is a lively young woman from Sierra Leone. She fled from the devastating ebola pandemic in 2015 and settled in Istanbul. She was 22 years old at the time, with a boundless determination and endless dreams in her mind.
I am a photographer myself, uprooted as well. I left my native Bulgaria when I was 12 as a result of forced immigration and settled in Turkey. I met Naomi in 2017 a bit by chance. Immediately, we developed a friendship. I was fascinated by the energy that emanated from her.
Since the days she had been dreaming in her small room in Freetown as a teenager about traveling to distant lands, Naomi, a matriarchal persona, stands against all odds. She disrupts the norm, the societal ideals and pushes beyond the accessible, opening her own path. She has achieved so much in so little time, both in Turkey and Sierra Leone. In just a few years she has become an indispensable figure in Sierra Leone, a small country that she holds so dear. She has founded a foundation specifically to support the growth and empowerment of girls, resumed her studies in Istanbul, organizes beauty contests, acts as a mediator between the youth of her country and the authorities and was recently the guest of honor at the inauguration of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. She dreams of being a fashion model, even the president of Sierra Leone one day.
I wanted to tell the story of immigration from inside, crisscrossing with my personal story. As I got deeper into Naomi’s extraordinary life, I realized that I had no choice but to connect her two lives, both in her homeland and in Turkey. I visited Sierra Leone in 2019 to portray her community and family life. As I unraveled her layer-by-layer and we built a stronger connection and the project evolved into a a joint narrative about Naomi. An inspiring and complex woman, far from all clichés, conveys the image of a young Sierra Leonean, alert, changing, claiming the right to be different, and celebrating diversity.