Bilo Hussein‘s first personal project, “Never Home,” explores displacement, homesickness and a yearning for belonging through portraits of women who have recently moved to New York City. Hussein created the series during her year-long digital photography masters program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. There, she worked with thesis adviser Manjari Sharma to refine her idea of making work relating to her personal experiences using a multiple-exposure technique. “[Sharma] talked me through what I was trying to say, and helped me realize that my project was not only about belonging to a place, but rather the idea of home,” Hussein told PDN via email. “She advised me to start shooting outside [of my] studio. Because it was winter, I was left with the option to invite myself over to my subject’s place to shoot.”
Hussein initially photographed her classmates and neighbors, then began approaching strangers in the subway or at cafes. “I chose my subjects based on fact that they had also recently moved into New York, and came from a different background,” she says. “I was intrigued by their experiences of moving into the city and their ability to develop a sense of belonging.”
She began her shoots by talking with her sitters about the experience of moving to a new city. “I started by telling them about my experience…then asked them to tell me about their move, and if they’ve been able to develop a sense of belonging to New York, or if they were homesick. I also asked them to tell me the place they loved the most in the city. If they didn’t have one, I tried to find a link between a recent place I visited, then my subject and I would layer both images together.”
“I also have a fascination for patterns,” she adds. “I like to profile and classify them in my head based on origins. So once I was finished with the first part, I went through my library of patterns and found a match based on my own judgment of the subject, either relying on her cultural background or some personality trait that I sensed.
The project, Hussein says, helped her learn to “break [down] barriers and connect” with her subjects. “I appreciate the connections I made. Some of them have blossomed into stronger relations despite our differences.”
To share the work, Hussein committed to posting one photograph per day on her blog and on Instagram. “I used that [commitment] as an excuse to keep shooting, exploring new parts of the city and getting over my fear of being in unfamiliar areas. My aim was to share my experience with the world and better my photography skills.”
For more about Hussein, please visit her website.