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Life in Limbo

Artist Feature of Ilir Tsouko

One of my recent projects is "Life in Limbo" which features a selection of photographs taken from a larger series created between 2021 and 2022 in a beach resort in Albania.

The photographs show children playing, adults staring outside large windows in expectance, yellow beach chairs, dark sand, and water in different blue shades. The surroundings are comfortable and soothing, but the horizon is almost always missing, while the Statue of Liberty stands freely, surrounded by a clouded afternoon sky.

The copy of the statue is part of the beach resort Rafaelo, located in the small town of Shengjin on the Adriatic coast in Albania. In August 2021, Albania agreed to take Afghan refugees. 1870 of them were hosted at the beach resort. Most of them were former government officials and employees of American institutions who were evacuated expecting to resettle in the U.S. and ended up in a country they had never heard of. Most of the refugees had never seen the sea before and now they were living in a catered luxury resort, trapped in a never-ending vacation dominated by feelings of gratitude for having escaped the punishment of the Taliban and frustration for the undetermined future of their relocation to the U.S.

I visited the resort on several occasions and spent a lot of time getting to know the people and each of their stories personally. My connection with the refugees allowed me to capture intimate photographs that, together with their stories, create a narrative with multiple perspectives. While most of the refugees have left for the U.S. and Canada, over 700 of them are still waiting in the hotel and may have to stay in Albania.

“Life in Limbo” is a story featuring a tough but hopeful chapter of a long and devastating war in Afghanistan. Some of the photographs from “Life in Limbo” have been published in the Washington Post and Die Zeit Magazine.