I was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1982. My family and I came to America as refugees in 1991, as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War which started shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow directed us to locate to Providence, Rhode Island. We did (we had no preference, like many other refugees). We were the first members of our family to come to America, so over the years my immediate family was instrumental in helping our extended family move to the United States. My family quickly developed strong friendships with other refugee and immigrant families that settled in Rhode Island, most of whom also came from Azerbaijan. These friendships slowly formed a social group, united by common culture.
I began photographing my family and friends eleven years after I came to America, while enrolled in my first photography class at the university. The focus was to explore the different generations of Soviet immigrants and refugees who came to Rhode Island during the 1990’s. By photographing my subjects in their homes, at their jobs, in their neighborhoods – the environments that they inhabited on a daily basis, I wanted to capture the relationships that they have developed to and within these places ever since moving to America. Fascinated with the idea that the foundation of America was built by immigrants, I wanted to explore the roles that we play in American life; as workers, as parents, as siblings, as friends – as Americans.
This series is about a reconstruction of a life left behind. It is a portrait of my family and friends; a specific group of people who, due to the failure of the Soviet government, ended up in America. Through these photographs I explore the process of adaptation and the endurance of nostalgia – two unconditional aspects of immigrant life.