I have been living and working in the region for almost a decade, and in Turkey itself for more than four years. I am drawn by ideas of borders and belonging. One enduring image that has always struck me wherever I travel is the schoolgirls in their little blue dresses, the same in every town, city or village. These dresses, with their lace collars and sweet messages embroidered on the bodices, are the symbol of the Turkish state, but the girls who wear them are simply little girls. In the borderlands of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia – the scene of an endless latent conflict between Kurdish separatists and the Turks – the dresses are the same. The lives of the small girls who inhabit it are just as harsh. Knowing their status, I wanted to provide a space for the girls to have a moment’s importance in front of a camera. Every shot was taken from the same distance to ensure a kind of equality for each girl. I hoped the symbol of the uniform, the repeated distance and the austerity of the landscape would represent one thing, but I also hoped more than anything to draw attention, in the expressions of the girls’ faces, to the idea of them poised at the moment ‘just before’ – the moment of possibility, a time when the presentation of self teeters into consciousness. I asked the group of girls to come forward with their chosen friends or with their sisters. Occasionally they came forward alone. Sometimes I asked to take another shot of an individual girl. The girls had mixed emotions. They were excited, curious and a little nervous. I was touched by the gravity in their demeanour when in front of the camera, their fragility, their simplicity, their grace, their closeness to one another, but most of all I was struck by their complete lack of posturing. I would like to thank George Georgiou my husband and kindred spirit, Nicholous Birch, a writer who sat patiently through hours on the road, the staff at VU’, in particular Thomas Doubliez and Patricia Morvan, and finally to the girls from the schools, whose 400 faces I well remember.