Traces of Exile

The ongoing crises in the Middle East have uprooted millions of people, yet new technology allows them to keep connected to their home communities and loved ones in unprecedented ways. The smartphone has become the essential travel companion of the 21st century refugee. Apps help migrants navigate through unfamiliar lands, stay in touch with their family and friends, contact smugglers, and even document their daily lives with selfies and posts to Instagram.

In 2016, I retraced the refugee trail through Europe, following the digital breadcrumbs left by these connected migrants. Inspired by an Augmented Reality app that layers the smartphone camera view with nearby social media posts, I captured the intersection of the refugees’ online presence and the locations of their exile.

How do refugees portray themselves compared to how they are portrayed in the media? Viewing these refugee selfies, people’s personalities shine through—some love cracking jokes, others are romantics, others long for their homes. In short, they are just like us.