Familiar Strangers takes its name from the novel by Stuart Hall, in which the author reflects on his dual identity as a Jamaican who has spent much time in the UK. Hall writes:
Identity is not a set of fixed attributes, the unchanging essence of the inner self, but a constantly shifting process of positioning. We tend to think of identity as taking us back to our roots, the part of us which remains essentially the same across time. In fact identity is always a never-completed process of becoming – a process of shifting identifications, rather than a singular, complete, finished state of being.
Like Hall, Brooklyn-based photographer Jeano Edwards was born and raised in Jamaica but lives in the US and is now drawn back to better understand his dual identity through this photographic series and film. Edwards says:
“There is a process of dis-identification that occurs whenever one is placed outside the context of your native home. The now foreigner is faced with a predicament: is it possible to keep intact the cultural self while allowing for natural development in a new environment? For me, it took manoeuvring outside the conditions that had shaped my life until the age of 16 to realise the significance of my upbringing on my sense of identity. It sounds quite apparent looking back – of course being born and indoctrinated in Jamaica makes me Jamaican, but that is exactly where the paradox lies. A fish does not know it is in water… The value I now place on being Jamaican has never been greater and an urgent question has emerged: what does it mean to be Jamaican? This is a personal question. I am not trying to examine this in an absolute sense; I simply want to understand what it means to me.”
Jeano Edwards is a photographer, designer & creative service professional based in NYC.