Back in 2016, I created this photo series for UCU’s ROOTS festival, aimed at celebrating the international background of the college’s students. They asked me to create a project within this theme, so I asked around 60 students to pose in front of a picture that they considered to symbolize their “roots”. Below are my 20 favorite photos along with the students’ quotes. Scroll through them and get a unique glance into the lives of these young internationals!
Sidenote: I also utilize this concept of representing nationalities or roots for clients! Think your (international) workplace might be interested in a representation like this of its employees? Contact me!
My mum took this photo. She’s a photographer and she’d always ask me if I wanted to keep her company while she went into the city center to take pictures. Sometimes I’d agree, I’d help her carry her heavy equipment and if I got bored I’d go to the nearest café and wait. At nighttime, when the humidity had lifted, and I took in the stunning modernity & I could not believe this is my beautiful home.
Greta, Genova (Italy)
You gave me no future and I hate you for this. You gave me wings and I love you for this. Forever grateful, forever yours.
Aya, Kamishikimi Shrine (Japan)
There is still so much beauty to explore where I am from. It draws me back every day.
Arno, Diemen (The Netherlands)
I consider my real 'roots' to be at my mom's house, because it's somewhere where I always felt comfortable. Somewhere I felt safe because we made it safe, together with my family. And I really needed that as a kid. The world is a big place, and because of my roots I feel like I'll be able to find my footing wherever I'll end up. To me, that's a comforting thought.
Karina, Jakarta (Indonesia)
Jakarta is a city of contrasts. It lights up your eyes and fills up your heart even in the hollowest of times.
Evgeny, Moscow (Russia)
"Let us burn Moscow and save the world" – Messenger to Tsar Alexander, 1812
Charlotte, Brussels (Belgium)
This is my first and favorite sight of the city. It leads to the central place where the people from all over the city come together. Whenever I go back I pause for 5 minutes, look at the view and I suddenly feel home.
Manolis, Heraklion (Greece)
“All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so.” – David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas. (2004)
José, Hilversum (The Netherlands)
"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." ~ John Muir
Emmeline, Lake District (UK)
“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” – William Wordsworth In my youth I took for granted the lakes and valleys, running through the empty forests and fiels. And now more than ever I identify there as home, for the loved ones who also fill it. not my actual building constructed, labelled with the word ‘home’ but the people and atmosphere, my family and friends who adapt the word from ‘house’ to ‘home’. Those are the foundations of my roots.
Jamie, Everywhere & Nowhere
Quirine, Sitges (Spain)
Glorios Sant Bartomeu, Que de Sitges n'ets patro, Visca La Festa Major
Jessa, Hampstead Head (London, UK)
Growing up in a megacity, I know the pictures people expect of London. Of course I’ve been to all those places – Trafalgar square, Oxford Street, the Houses of Parliament – and they’re part of my relationship to the city, but I mainly experienced them in passing, trying to avoid the tourist hordes. When I think of my home city, the first place I always think of is Hampstead Heath. I go for long family walks here every Christmas; I swim in the lakes here every summer.
Pavlo, Lviv (Ukraine)
Meike, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
Max, Vrije School Amelo (NL)
A happy childhood is essential for everything in one's later life, and because of my parents' conscious choice to send me to the anthroposophic Vrije School, I got the best childhood I could ask for. This picture shows the finale of eight years; aside from playing young Simba in our Lion King adaptation, I got my first opportunities to drum, vocal coach and even direct. Therefore, I truly consider this place as the 'roots' for the person I am today.
Simona, Sofia (Bulgaria)
Lucia, Munich (Germany)
Germany is more than Oktoberfest.
When I don't know where my roots are, family and nature are always good answers. Oh, and maple syrup.