Q: Why did you start this project?

A: This photography project started as a result of an academic need and an act of hate. In 2011, I enrolled in the Photography Certificate Program at the NH Institute of Art. I needed a “body of work” to submit as a final project. A the same time there were four cases of hateful graffiti scrawled on refugee homes in Concord. I decided then to use my photography to show that cultural, ethnic and religious diversity in our communities should be celebrated and can add to the quality of life for all.

Q: How did you connect with the families?

A: A friend suggested I contact Honore Murenzi, Executive Director of New American Africans in Concord. He connected me with a few others, and each of them put me in touch with more families. The word spread within the immigrant communities. I continue to hear from new immigrant contacts interested in the project and eager for photographs. So, the connections are still growing.

Q: Why publish this book?

A: As the project developed, I realized that I was having unusual, even unique, opportunities to experience the personal lives, public ceremonies, and family events within the immigrant communities. It was not uncommon for me to be the only American-born person in the middle of a joyful party or sacred service. I saw the determination and dedication of the families to build a better life for themselves and their children. I wanted to share this with others, especially because of ongoing debate and public dialog about immigrant and refugee issues.

Q: Did the immigrants agree to be photographed?

A: I quickly found that people were not only accepting of me and my camera, but eager to show me their lives, photograph their traditions, and document their stories. It was very important to me that individuals feel comfortable with me photographing them and understand the uses for the photos. I had people sign a release that explained my uses for the photos. I was careful not to include anyone who did not want photographs taken.

Q: Who is the audience for this book?

A: There are several audiences. I hope the photographs will be appreciated by other photographic artists. In addition, I hope the American-born community will see in these photos evidence of the beauty, resilience and hard work within immigrant communities. I also hope the book will stimulate discussions among students, community groups and government leaders on important issues of immigration and inclusion in our state.

Q: What are your plans after this book?

A: The photography project will continue – I plan to visit other parts of New Hampshire to include more cultural groups among our newly arrived immigrant neighbors. Also, I have in mind a couple of other books from this project to work on.

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