Altrove (meaning 'Elsewhere') is a photographic documentary project by the Italian artist-photographer Alexis Ftakas, who was born in Bologna in 1989, albeit of Greek origins. Ftakas has chosen to focus on foreign food stores in Milano – the fourth city in Europe for the number of immigrants it hosts, about 258,000 – where migrant communities buy the typical foodstuffs of their home countries every day.
Indeed, within migrant communities food represents a strong element of identity, in which personal and collective recollections mingle with tastes and aromas recalling their roots. Those leaving their homeland, whether for a brief spell or forever, always carry a little bit of nostalgia in their hearts: the food stores where these communities do their shopping, therefore, bridge the gap between the country of origin and that of adoption.
We asked Alexis Ftakas to talk to us about his project and explain how it was first conceived.
How did you first become interested in food and its relationship with migrant communities?
My works stem from an interest I nurture for the different cultures cohabiting in big cities, as well as in smaller towns, particularly for those aspects that are substantially common to all groups, but different in their form: food is an example of what I mean, since it is fundamental to human survival but has taken on quite different aspects according to where it has developed. A migrant is a person who lives poised between two worlds and two cultures, without ever entirely belonging to the one he has left or the one he has adopted. Food plays an important role in keeping people anchored to their own cultural identity. Food is a bridge interconnecting the two worlds the migrant belongs to.