To Make Visible: Portraits and Reflections From The Dominican RepublicIn August, I spent 3 weeks photographing the people whom I encountered in the Dominican Republic, from the capital of Santo Domingo to the Haitian border. My original project was to document Haitian migrants living, working and persevering in a country where their services in the sugar cane, domestic and construction industries among others, are necessary yet often go unappreciated and unwanted. Their presence in the Dominican is frequently criticized as detrimental to the overall economy, society, culture, and identity of the eastern half of the island where the two cultures must coexist.

Despite having numerous assets on my side through the backing of the University, a handful of guides, and of course, the endless assistance of my sister Allison, who lives in the Dominican, I found that my traditional “storytelling toolkit” was null and void due to the complexities of my subject matter. Nearly every skill that I have developed in my attempts to document North Philadelphia and my American experiences was inapplicable in the marketplaces, neighborhoods and communities through which I meandered, blatantly standing out with my white skin and female-ness, massive camera, gringa dress, and lack of comprehension of the culture in which I was immersed.

I am very aware (and perhaps never aware enough) of my privilege having gone into that situation, all of the blessings that came with the opportunity to travel and peer into a culture with my presence and my lens. And yet, it’s never enough, to arrive green, 500 miles away, and attempt to save the world in 3 weeks time.

What does it mean to make visible?

This is the question I must ask of myself and of my work as I attempt to create imagery that will undeniably tell a story – but for what end and for whom? I would like to explore this question with you by sharing the portrait series of the people who trusted me enough to allow their picture to be taken despite the traditional use of the camera at their expense by deportation officials, human trafficking violators, and the less-than-objective media. I would also like to share some reflections from this experience so that others might build from the recount of my unexpected successes of learning to trust and being trusted, as well as the failures of my assumptions.

The opening of the exhibition is from 4-8 this Friday, Sept 30 in the Annenberg Hall Atrium. The images will be on display for one week following. There will be some light refreshments and such. Hope to see you there!

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