Romanian photographer Horia Manolache, reimagines and “repaints” history. In a present moment that is hot with political controversy about immigration, he looks at the art of the past and asks a pointed and timely question, “What if?” What if the totems and signifiers of power were upended? What if the refugees, the homeless, the disenfranchised, the “others” replaced the royals in court portraits? Would seeing a refugee – elaborately coiffed, dressed in silk and gold brocade, posed with the staged confidence of a VIP – suggest that prejudice should be replaced by empathy? And that our common humanity should confer status, privilege, and dignity – not a lucky accident of birth?
Through his stunning, painterly visuals, Horia Manolache challenges our perceptions by confronting our negative prejudices with their positive twin. Why not imagine the least cherished members of a certain society – its non-citizens – as if they were its most prized nobility? Horia’s project invites us to honestly consider how history would differ if both royals and refugees were to be stripped of their privilege and stigma, down to their human core, and then made to exchange places.
"Being known and loved for who they are is a privilege that is mostly inaccessible to refugees. The refugee identity overwrites and levels people coming from radically different backgrounds, with unique life histories, with precious dreams and aspirations, with valuable talents, and, most importantly, with personal meaning. Something irreplaceable is lost when all these nuances fade in one bland identity, multiplied by millions."