Stacy Mehrfar’s new photobook captures the emotional effects of migration and the loss of stability, self, and belonging that can be felt during this transitory experience
“I grew up knowing I was something ‘other’ than American,” says Stacy Mehrfar, who was born and raised in Long Island, New York, by Iranian parents. “My family’s home didn’t look like other homes in our neighbourhood. It was filled with Persian rugs, gaudy curtains, the sounds of Farsi and the smells of Fenugreek.”
Mehrfar grew up fascinated by her family’s photo albums, making up stories about distant relatives and their friends — it was a way into histories that she was otherwise unable to access. “Growing up I always had a strong sense of my cultural identity. I was an Iranian American Jewish woman — that made sense to me.”
When Mehrfar was 30-years-old, she married an Australian and emigrated to Sydney. “I never thought that I’d leave New York, and it took me a while to feel like Sydney was home,” she says. “The light, the landscape, the vegetation — it was all completely different. Even the English we spoke was different. Words and gestures didn’t carry the same meanings any longer. I had so much to relearn.”
During this process of migration, Mehrfar felt a loss of stability, and that her identity was no longer tied to her heritage or her homeland. “I felt lost, in limbo,” says the photographer. “As I started to internalise my feelings, I became increasingly aware of how migration had disrupted my perceptions of self and belonging.”
When Mehrfar eventually returned to live in the US, she assumed that she would feel at home again, “but in actuality, re-migration reinforced those feelings of estrangement,” she says. “It was as if I was a foreigner in my own home.”
Curious as to whether this was an effect of immigration, Mehrfar began to approach and photograph other immigrants who felt the same way. The Moon Belongs to Everyone is the result of her attempt to respond to and visualise these feelings.
Comprising emotive portraits sequenced between detached landscapes and meditative still lifes, the book is a reflection of the transitory experience. “[The images] represent the ‘in-between’, that sensation of not being here or there, but rather that of being somewhere one cannot exactly locate,” Mehrfar explains.
Through repetition and the sense of movement, Mehrfar creates a world within her book that mimics the oscillating feelings of this state of limbo. “I want the book to feel like its own universe — once you enter this space, you cannot leave.”
Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.