LIFE IN ONE CIRCLE. Photo project about families living abroad. Game-like rules, real-life stories.

By Laura Appena

Imagine packing up your house in boxes, packing up your family in airport taxi and leaving your ordinary life with one-way ticket in your hand. You are about to board a totally new chapter in your life – moving to a different country. What would be your reasons for leaving? What would you hope to achieve in the new place of residence? Would you want to escape or discover? Or both? How would your new daily life look like? I bet, for many of you, it has crossed your mind, at one point or another. Perhaps, you don’t even have to imagine that, because you have experienced it yourself. Anyhow, here is what intrigues us – why does the same country attract one family to move there, while encouraging another to leave? And how is the life of an expat family?


Our selection of families – much like a game!


We are two Latvian photographers – Harijs Daina Liepins and Laura Appena. Dad and daughter. We have created the photography project LIFE IN ONE CIRCLE, to capture and share stories about experiences of expat families that have chosen to live in a foreign land. The selection of participants' nationalities is not random – it is based on idea joining all those families in sort of a chain that will eventually form a circle. Ok, now I might have gotten you all a bit confused :) Let me illustrate that.


We wanted the beginning of the project to be linked with our country, so the first story is about Latvian family that has moved to the United Kingdom. They left Latvia as their native land, so subsequently, the next link in the chain is a family that has left another country to settle down in Latvia. We were lucky to find one like that from Vietnam. It means that the next one up is a foreign family currently living in Vietnam. Still searching for that. Maybe you happen to know one? And yes, it also means that we get to go to Vietnam someday this year! How cool is that?! :)


And so it goes on and on, up till the point where we decide that it’s time to close the virtual circle. And it will be done with a British family, living outside the UK, since that is the country where we first started. So, I guess it’s kinda like a game – at this point, we have no clue to which parts of the world this adventure will take us. It all depends on the origins of families that will cross our path. We only have approximate number of participants in mind that we’d like to include in the project. Along with a strong belief that the world will join hands to help us in finding those amazing families that are willing to share their experiences. Fingers crossed!


Expats – they are not traitors, nor weirdos


I suppose we all know somebody who has lived abroad. Or still does. Maybe you have a neighbour that is not native. Might be even with a different skin colour. I myself have lived abroad four times, though for relatively short periods of time. And there are quite a lot of foreign people in my current neighbourhood. Obviously, it is human to be afraid and cautious about the things that are unfamiliar. I get it. And it is totally normal to have different opinions. But above it all, we believe that there should be tolerance and understanding among us.


We have heard people saying that those who choose to leave their home country are unthankful traitors. Yes, you heard me right. And we have seen people pointing fingers at foreign members of the community, calling them job thieves or nasty, weird immigrants. We know, there are bad examples and there are good examples, but somehow most people tend to hang on those bad ones. But the good ones are out there, as well! There are people and things to be happy and proud about. Photographing just two of the LIFE IN ONE CIRCLE participant families so far, we have met a Latvian kid who has won a national competition in the United Kingdom, for his short stories to get printed in a book. We have heard a Vietnamese guy speaking Latvian (people say, that both of those languages are difficult). We have been told a story about a little Vietnamese boy who lives in Latvia and sings his heart out during Latvian national anthem after his team has won a football game in Estonia.


We each have our story


Just to be clear, this project is not a guide for moving abroad, nor a scientific research or statistical report. It is a collection of individual stories, linked together, seeking for things that are common among the families and the ones that are not. And, hopefully, we’ll find them. We do not want to generalize anything, nor judge anyone. Simply, by introducing you to the participant families of LIFE IN ONE CIRCLE and by sharing their experiences, we do want to show the world that we are all equal as humans AND beautifully unique in our differences. We each have our story. And in the end – we all want to be loved and understood, don’t we?


The world is becoming more and more interconnected. And, like it or not, the international migration is happening, and it’s not going anywhere. So the best we all can do, is to accept it. And to accept those who choose to live outside their place of birth. And if we can go one step further – getting to know their story and even imagining being in their shoes – well, then, as trivial as it sounds, the world just might become a better place :)


Documenting the real life


We visit each family at their place of residence for a few days. We capture in photos their daily lives, doing the chores, spending time at school or at work, running errands, going to park, playing games or simply relaxing at home. Besides that, we ask all the family members to gather on the living room couch and to give a video interview – about their choices and sacrifices, gains and losses, successes and struggles. We are eager to share each of the photo stories with you – here on the blog, on our Instagram or Facebook feeds, and eventually – displayed in exhibitions and printed in a book. I truly hope you will find the photos and stories exciting to follow. Stories about the Latvian and Vietnamese families – coming soon!


You are welcome to comment below, if you have any thoughts to share about the role of international migration in the world and in your life!

And if there is anything you want to let us know personally, please do! Connect via Facebook messenger, send us an email or fill in the contact form here on the website.