An Artist Residency in 2011 provided Santa Barbara County-based photographer and human rights activist Patricia Houghton Clarke with the opportunity to live in a tiny southern Italian community where the residents understand what it means to be a stranger in a strange land.
Historically migrants themselves, between 1876 and the early 1980’s more than 26 million Italians migrated to the United States, northern Europe and other parts of the globe. The villagers’ acceptance of “other” comes from a place deep within themselves, their families, and their own migratory history, saying “...we know what it’s like to carry a suitcase...” Through this work Patricia is seeking to represent the commonalities of human nature and personal dignity.
What do these people look like? Do we see ourselves in them? Can we face ourselves - and each other?
Despite today’s worldwide political turmoil in regards to migration and integration, many people in a wide range of communities wish to reach out with compassion and support their new neighbors. These people find ways to step outside of themselves and their own lives to help newly arrived refugees/immigrants establish themselves through legal, financial, emotional, and spiritual assistance.
Generally the photo sessions take place with each subject seated in the same chair, in natural chiaroscuro light. Each participant dresses in the style that expresses themselves in an authentic manner. The subjects include all ages, genders and ethnicities. The goal of the project is to honor the refugee experience and equally honor those who step forward and welcome their new neighbors.