Cezar Dezfuli is one of the 25 projects/photographers shortlisted for the 2020 CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography.
The Passengers project seeks to put a face to those who have seen the need to migrate outside the system, analyzing the impact that this movement has on their identity.
On August 1, 2016, 118 people were rescued from a rubber boat drifting in the Mediterranean, 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. It’s one of the hundreds of boats that have been rescued from this migratory route in the past years. Only in 2016 were historical records were beaten as 181,436 migrants were rescued safe, while 4,576 died at sea.
In an attempt to put a name and face to this reality, I portrayed the 118 people who traveled on the same boat, a few minutes after their rescue. Their faces, their looks, the marks on their body, their clothes or the absence of them reflect the mood and physical state in which they were in after a long journey that had marked their lives forever.
But that would be just the beginning of this investigative project.
I soon understood that these people I had portrayed lacked real identity. They were not themselves, but they were a result of a long journey during which their identity had been diluted in the mass, sometimes hidden by themselves for fear of the environment, stolen based on abuses and humiliations. This shows that the price of traveling outside the system is too high, especially for those who pay with their lives.
During the last three years I have worked to locate the 118 passengers, today scattered throughout Europe, to understand and document their real identity, with the aim of showing that in those individuals who I had photographed in 2016, there were latent identities, which only needed a peaceful context to flourish again.
To date, I have met 63 of them, and I have located 105. They currently live in various cities in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Malta, Holland, and Switzerland. And, although their future is still uncertain, at least they have been able to return to being themselves.