Andrea Wise

RETURNED: When Photography Sparks Research

Andrea WiseComment

Life is full of surprising and you really never can predict what might happen because of your photographs. I came across anthropologist Heike Drotbohm and her work with many of the same people I photographed in Brava while working on RETURNED and we've corresponded since. An interesting difference between anthropology and photojournalism is that we, as photojournalists, use people's real names, anthropologists use pseudonyms to protect people's identities.  

So when I read Dr. Drotbohm's research on forced migration not only in Brava (the island) but specifically in Nova Sintra -- the very town where my family is from and where I photographed the people in my project -- I knew we must have met some of the same people. So I sent her my portraits and she confirmed that indeed, we had met several of the same people.

But she made an interesting observation: that everyone in my photographs looked so much older than they had looked only a few years earlier when she'd met them. This observation sparked a new line of research for her about the physical aging effects of forced migration. 

She recently gave a talk at a conference and I am so grateful that Lorenz Khazaleh from the The University of Oslo's Department of Anthropology wrote about Dr. Drotbohm's talk so I could read about it. It is these kinds of small moments that give me hope that with time, photographs really can bring attention and awareness that can spark research and action. Click below if you're interested in reading about Dr. Drotbohm's talk.