They Arrived Last Night

“…it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard,
distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.

Ralph Ellison,  Invisible Man

Across the world refugees and migrants are seen without being truly seen. They are the subject of endless debate, the objects of rage or pity.

These are individuals and communities shrouded in a fog of discourse. They are portrayed either as victims or as perpetrators, as indicators of the failure of politics the failure of diplomacy and the failure of systems but never quite as human beings. We writers, politicians, populists, humanitarians even artists pretend to see them. And yet throughout all of this debate, individuals are rarely seen or heard from. The first step to accepting their humanity is to recognize that up until now, we treat them as invisibles, grotesques, objects to be debated over.

Two years ago at the Loyola’s LUMA Gallery in Chicago, I exhibited a series of photographs examining the lives and resilience of the world’s displaced people.