Re-thinking Photographic Portraiture of 21st Century Italian Migrants in the Arc Lémanique Area

When Italians started to migrate to Switzerland after the end of World War II, they were the largest community of migrants in the Swiss Confederation. They largely contributed to the prosperity of Switzerland, but always as external help and hence struggled to get integrated into Swiss society. However, by the end of the 1970’s Switzerland began to change this unequal relationship and Italians had the possibility to become part of the Swiss community. After a period of deceleration, at the beginning of the 21st century Italians started again to heavily migrate to the Swiss Confederation.

According to the Office Federal de la Statistique, still in 2021 Italians were the largest group of migrants in Switzerland. This phenomenon has, of course, an impact on different levels on Swiss society. However, this new diaspora is different in many aspects once compared with the migration of the 1960s and 1970s. How can an image capture a complex, ineffable, and unrepresentable notion of modern Italian cultural identity? Furthermore, how can an image represent the cultural identity of a group of people whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the experience of physically moving away from their homeland and resetting in a terra incognita? These photographs are an attempt to render visible the complex notion of this new migratory identity, of identity in flux which is different from the common understanding of migration. The message of this work is that there is great value to telling the stories of these migrants, which are often underestimated.