A couple of weeks ago I went to another of those local photography meetings. This time it was about a project someone wanted to show and discuss. You can read more about it here. It is not about followers on social media but people who just follow their loved ones from one place to another because many reasons. Work is the most common one.
Somehow it felt familiar. I was myself one who followed his parents along the years through some different places. And now I am one who has dragged his family with him to a new place with the promise of a better life. Now I have my own followers, so I can easily relate to this project. There are many known things that happen in a leader-follower kind of relationship in a foreign country that this project describes.
One is the follower having to stop working. Developing her/his own career becomes difficult if not impossible. Depending on the country, the academic titles might not be recognized. In some countries you can only work with a permit of some kind, that doesn’t usually include your partner. The unemployment numbers might be high for specific kinds of jobs. Specialization means having to do courses, that cost money and time. And time for oneself is not easy to get, given that now she/he will need to care of the children at home, if there are any.
Another issue comes with the concept of home, a place that you are supposed to live in forever. Or is it just the place where you actually live?. While the leader can be perfectly fine at his/her office doing the job, meeting with co-workers, feeling part of the experience, the follower can feel just the opposite. Difficulties on people in the new place and possibly a complete lack of sympathy with the new place that she/he refuses to call home.
There are more things that can happen, but as a start, these two can become quite complicated. Sooner or later this will produce frictions in the relationship. Doubts about her/his role as a follower will appear. So at some point she/he will start questioning what was all this fuss about the expat life.
I asked to the host of the meeting about the leader part. If she ever did talk with the ones that at some point decided to bring his/her followers to a new place. She told me that only in a few cases. The project is more about her interest in people is this particular situation, one that she also is having, by the way. Another similar project could be done, or a second part to this one, about the leaders. These can also have their own sort of issues and doubts, more if not everything goes as expected. If that happens, the dynamics between leaders and followers can become even more difficult.
And what this has to do with photography? Why this discussion took place in a photography meeting? Part of the project are portraits and pictures of some of the places where the followers live. And while they initially didn’t look like very interesting pictures to me, they made more sense when explained. The most interesting ones were the portraits, with a split composition showing an empty space and a half of a follower’s portrait. This was meant to show that somehow, the follower was and at the same time wasn’t there, in a place that doesn’t look exactly like home. Other pictures were more about the place itself, like specific corners of the house, or personal belongings.
You can see a few of these pictures here.