I am often asked why and how I started this project to photograph immigrants and refugees in New Hampshire. The inadequate answer is I really don’t know – it was like the proverbial light bulb going off over my head. Yet I can point to the convergence of two events that got me going.
In the fall of 2011, I enrolled in the photography program at the NH Institute of Art. To graduate, I needed a coherent body of photos. I was inspired by the work of Photography Department chair, Gary Samson, in Ghana and Cape Breton Island. His images of people in their environments are both artistic and profound.
That same fall, malicious graffiti was scrawled on the homes of four refugee families in Concord, NH. I was appalled with such a hateful act against families who had escaped violence and resettled here for a better future; one family was so frightened that they left New Hampshire. I decided then to use my photography to honor New Hampshire’s recent immigrants.
I spent the first year making connections with immigrant families and events. My camera and I went to English and citizenship classes. I met parents with adorable children, senior citizens with faces lined with time, and young adults wanting to share their own culture while embracing a new society. With each contact came more connections and the project quickly grew. Soon I was invited to homes, family parties, traditional celebrations, and sacred services.
I have received abundant cooperation and interest from the immigrant families, communities and organizations. I have been welcomed, even urged, to attend private and public events. The people seem to understand the message of my work – that though we may be different in many ways, we have the same dreams, to have safe families, meaningful jobs, and freedom to practice our cultural and religious traditions.
One of my first photo shoots was with the Bosnian community in Manchester at a presentation of traditional dance, music, poetry, and song. This was the first time that the Bosnians had performed for the NH public while also teaching these traditions to their young people.