The "UN/DOCUMENTED" Book
Cover and Interior Views
Inkjet prints, plexiglass, spray paint, ink, binding screws.
5¾ x 10 x ¾”
UN/DOCUMENTED is a series of portraits of current or former illegal immigrants as well as legal first-generation Americans. The subjects were asked to sit for the portrait with the understanding that their identities would not be revealed. They were also asked to bring with them a significant object from their culture. This object was photographed while in their hands. The handwritten text is each persons' response to my request to write about that object and their connection to it.
Unlike other identification photographs, which primarily depict a face, these portraits reveal some aspects of what is left out. This flip of normal practice removes the specificity of the individual, much like racial or cultural stereotyping denies the personality of the individual, thus opening the door for racism and other inappropriate treatment. The triptych delivers various manifestations of the sitter: their physical presence, the connection they have to a particular object and their direct thoughts about the object and its place in their life. I also chose the triptych format to allude to Christian religious art. The triptych format, which arises from early Christian art, reveals an interesting parody of the biblical phrase “love thy neighbor”. Certainly that love is often neglected in the rhetoric that accompanies the illegal immigration question. Additionally, in traditional use of the triptych, the middle panel is considered the most significant; I have chosen to locate the sitters' expression of their lives and situation in this panel, rather than my or the viewer's perception of them.
Due to the media and various political concerns targeting particular ethnic groups as dangerous and undesirable, I grew up assuming that the term illegal immigrant, or illegal alien, represented only a specific racial group. I found through personal investigation, connection, and friendship, that illegal immigration was multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and widespread. I also, obviously, found these “aliens” were not different than myself or any other human being, legal or otherwise. Taking a little time to get to know these individuals allowed me to earn their trust and friendship, and enabled me to re-evaluate these misinformed notions.