Photographers Focus on the Immigrant Experience

Immigrants have been the topic of some heated national conversations over the past few years. Recent debates over border walls, visa restrictions, and “bad hombres” have brought immigration related issues to the forefront of our countrywide consciousness. But the fervent dialogue about how immigrants impact life on our shores often reduces them to an amorphous group instead of highly diverse individuals with their own hopes, dreams, and histories. Two new photo projects aim to present a unique, intimate portrait of the immigrant experience by offering a visual story to viewers.

Photographer, June Canedo, recently gave a preview of a yet untitled series of photographs to style magazine, Dazed, detailing how the goal of her project is to showcase immigrant mothers with their first-generation-American daughters in a home-based, documentary-style setting. Canedo, who is herself an immigrant from Brazil, wanted to focus particularly on the mother / daughter dynamic because it mirrors the intensely matriarchal culture of her country of birth. Her photographic subjects are all personal friends of hers, and are shown in a variety of unstructured domestic settings that highlight their bond. By collaborating with her subjects as they relax in their homes, preparing dinner or playing with their pets, Canedo hopes to “contextualize the mother-daughter relationship of first- and second-generation immigrant women living in the United States.” See June Canedo’s New Photography Series Explores Mother-Daughter Relationships Through the Power of Collaboration by Hannah Tindle, Dazed, 04.Sep.2019.

Immigration may also highlight cultural differences between one’s nation of birth and the adopted country that becomes home. That’s the theme of a photo installation by Nigerian photographer, Elizabeth Okoh, entitled “Bonds,” which is currently featured in PositiveNews. The five-part conceptual series, African Diasporan, features portraits of London immigrants who originally hail from several African nations, including Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and the Gambia. Okoh, who is herself an immigrant from Nigeria based in London, explained to the magazine, “I’m mostly inspired by my culture, immigration, and living in the diaspora. I’m interested in how other Africans experience living in the U.K., having been raised elsewhere, and figuring out if there are any shared experiences.” Okoh’s photographs have a focus on interpersonal relationships, such as those between sisters, friends, and spouses, in order to “explore how this type of relationship blossoms or stagnates in a different culture with different sets of norms.” [Photo Series Explores the Beauty of First-Generation Immigrants by Lucy Purdy, Positive News, 04.Jun.2019.]

Immigration has become a loaded topic in our increasingly divided political landscape. By using a visual medium to create intimate portraits of immigrants that celebrate the unique stories of their heritage, photographers are offering another perspective on immigration that honors diversity through their personal experiences.


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