Social documentary photography has been an extension of my professional life for nearly twenty years. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Photography from Texas A&M-Commerce, a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of North Texas, and most recently a PhD in Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. Throughout my photographic career, the subject of my work has been the Mexican immigrant and undocumented community.
In the spirit of Richard Avedon, August Sander, Irving Penn, and more recently, Peter Yang, my contribution includes a photographic record of immigrant laborers currently residing in North Texas who are from Latin American countries. Unlike Avedon who was an outsider from New York, I have a unique perspective as an insider who comes from a working-class family of Mexican immigrants. I compare my work to the archives of German documentary photographer, August Sander, who catalogued social types in the period between the two World Wars. Sander’s goal was to create a major archive documenting the diverse social characteristics of German people.
I have created a documentary record of the many hardworking immigrant laborers who usually are relegated to the status of ‘non-belonging other’ and not as an equal. Instead of marginalizing the laborer by depicting them in their work environment, or in a uniform, they are dressed in their chosen attire and collaborate in the decisions regarding their portrayal. My aim is to expose the laborers as more than a simple statistic; instead, there is a face for the viewer to meet and encounter as an equal due in part to the large size of the prints. This body of work challenges social realist depictions of immigrant laborers, historically created by rhetoric, that produce the immigrant laborer as merely a worker rather than as an individual with a story. I combine text, graphics, and historical images of workers to create narratives concerning the individuals portrayed. These allow the viewer an opportunity to spend more time with each image. In contrast to the dominant tradition of stark realism long associated with social documentary photography, the photographs in this project are digital collages.
Angelica, Building Cleaning Worker, Queretaro
Rene, Construction, arrived at age 25, Guanajuato
Petrolina, Domestic Worker, arrived at age 23, Matamoros, Puebla
Luis, Construction Sub-Contractor, arrived at age 26, Costa Rica
Miguel, Delivery Driver, arrived at age 16, Guadalajara, Jalisco