When I interviewed and photographed Kim for the art project Crossing Identities, I understood that from my European-German point of view I had never experienced anyone with such manifold experiences. Not only does Kim move in layers of different groups, she is especially observant and articulate about it. Kim is surrounded by low and high income people, she moves between African-American, Latin-American and full on “white” American society. Her parents are Guatemalan and Mexican, from a poor backgrounds as well as from higher class. Kim spends holidays in Guatemala, where she is part of higher class. She could see that language and location separated her from low income people. In Los Angeles her experience is reversed as she lives in a low income neighbourhood. As a member of the lgbt community she constantly juggles between the catholic world of her parents and the need for freedom to express her gender orientation.

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

Jumping between point of views has turned her into a human being who is aware of what is going on around her. To her, being American stands for the colourfulness of this country. Being American to her, is the mix of people coming together on a common ground. She admits that it simplifies cultures, however it is for the sake of the community. Although in Kim’s eyes the African-American community and the Latin-American community each has their specific struggles, the fact that they struggle, makes her feel very close to the African America community.

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

This marks a recurring observation during my interviews. As soon as any of the students had to go through a struggle in life, which made them question the way they where, their empathy level for anyone less fortunate was heightened remarkably. Those students had to understand that the way they learned how to be, did not work out in order to be successful in all situations. They had to adapt and be open to change. This experience applies as well to mental illness, overweight or gender orientation. Students with that experience where marginalized as well and they could either close up and retaliate or they had to learn new ways of being in order to adapt. The most common and successful technique they used was to confront their environment head on with its ignorance and stand their own grounds.

I feel so honoured that each student opened up their hearts to let me in and see the world through their eyes. There is so much to learn from each of them! If I where to decide, I would say, give those students their own parliament and let’s watch the world become a better place!

“Crossing Identities was kindly sponsored by the Berlin Senate for the 50y jubilee of the partner cities Los Angeles and Berlin in 2017.

Writer & Photographer Semra Sevin

 

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