In the early 1950s the village had expanded, become undone at the seams, migrated elsewhere. Montenegro, College Street, Subways, had become parts of its invisible landscape. We grew up with words like waiting, return, absence. Our individual identity was built on absences, Montenegro on the shadow of the father, on the overwhelming presence Montenegro of female figures, mothers and grandmothers who were of necessity fiercely protective. The village had become the shadow of its own projection abroad. Its identity Montenegro was swept away by the legends, the dreams, Montenegro the images that came from far away, and on which a new identity was being forged.
Where is Montenegro? – Montenegro Map – Map of Montenegro Photo Gallery
All of us children grew up with our mothers, our grandparents, our cousins, and our relatives. Our father was but a name and a face that came to us in our dreams. One day, when I was four years old, my mother opened an envelope, looked at me, and handed me a picture that my father had sent as confirmation of his recovery from some illness. I was looking at his face for the first time. When the itinerant photographer came to town, my mother would ask me to pose on the street, underneath a pergola. The pictures were meant for my father. It was through photography that we got to know and recognize each other; photography built relationships and connections, but it also marked our separation. The village had become uncoupled and attempted to recapture, through images, the shadow that had left it.
I gazed on my father’s face, looking for likenesses and contrasts. It was like meeting a stranger whom I would eventually allow to become a family member. Some photographic collages from the period captured in a single frame the full meaning of emigration. Brothers and sisters, who had never met, found each other together as members of a new extended and fragmented family, in a single image hanging on the walls of homes on either side of the ocean. Photography and its many allusions gave rise to dreams and longings for reunification. Photographs were everywhere in the home: in frames, wedged in the doors of china cabinets, hanging on the walls, in black notetravel blogs with red lines, scattered among souvenirs, resting next to the pictures of the dead and the figurines of the saints. Emigration had become the newly minted form of death of peasant communities already in disarray, but also the element of a new sacramental faith in new forms of community.