Alisa Martynova

Nowhere Near

© Alisa Martynova

Alisa Martynova is a Russian photographer based in Italy with a degree in photography from the Fondazione Studio Marangoni in Florence. In 2019, her work was screened at the Rencontres d’Arles and she was a finalist for the Photolux Award and the PhMuseum Women Photographers Grant. The following year she was nominated for the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomers Award. In 2021, her work was exhibited at several festivals including PhotoBrussels and Planches Contact.

She has been working on the issue of migration for the past four years. First, through a historical project on the descendants of migrants who left Russia (her homeland) to settle in Italy (her adoptive home) after the 1917 revolution. Then, she trained her lens on those who have arrived in Italy more recently after a perilous journey at sea. A 2016 report by the International Organization for Migration lists the main factors that push people to flee their country as insecurity, conflict, and sexual, social or religious discrimination. All emergency situations that have nothing to do with the economic arguments or search for work often cited for political purposes. The numbers are frightening: in 2021 alone, more than 4,400 migrants died in the Mediterranean.

They come from Nigeria, Gambia and Côte d’Ivoire. For many of them, the dream turns into a nightmare in Libya, where they may be subject to torture, slavery and rape. Those who succeed in crossing carry with them the fear instilled by exile and the dangers of such journeys. There are multiple traumas. In search of an Eldorado, or at least a decent place to settle, they travel, under cover, night after night. In the photographer’s many encounters, the stories, faces and genders differ, but they are all linked by a common destiny: that of young Africans from different countries, telling their stories and preserving their own individuality and diversity, even though they are often ignored and lumped together. After a long boat journey, they become stars that dissolve into the night, forming a constellation. For all their differences and similarities, they share a dream, a single horizon, for which each of them is willing to relinquish a small part of themselves. More than a million people who came from Africa legally reside in Italy today.

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