Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Because being a migrant is all those things (GRAMUP 5)

"On the subject of photographs, Leon Pantoni is someone I'm sure you've never heard of. He's a migrant too. Or was. Leon Pantoni is the name he was issued with at Ellis Island, where all new arrivals in America were naturalized. Unlike most Greeks who arrived in America Pantoti was not illiterate. He also had a trade: he was a photographer. He quickly learned English and opened a studio in San Francisco, photographing Greeks and Americans between 1914 and 1922. Portraits of children, mothers, labourers, rich and poor, bachelors and newlyweds, mail-order brides shipped out from Greece, because the local women were out of reach to the average migrant. He photographed beautiful foreign girls who married elderly locals, usually for their money or a residence permit, or both. In one such picture taken by Pantoti the bride is showing off her right leg, trying to look flirtatious and give an impression of the comfortable existence she had just embarked on. The photograph has everything in it: dreams, pretense, harsh reality, comedy – because being a migrant is all those things" (112–113).

Kapllani, Gazmend. 2009. A Short Border Handbook. Translated by Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife. Portobello Books.

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