Series: My New Home
"The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever."
These are the words of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. This is what he said when asked about the Trump administration's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents and families at the US/Mexico border. He then brushed aside concerns that it would be cruel to separate young children from their parents and house them in detention centers.
The immigrant situation in this country tortured me even before Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015. The most recent events fill me with deep anguish. Incredibly, children as young as eight months old have been forcibly taken from their families. Since I am an artist, a photographer, the most potent way to express my feelings is with the visual image.
Others have gone to the border to visually document this suffering. Instead, I have turned to my collection of images to express my feelings. For a number of years, I have been collecting images for a photographic project entitled “Compound”. The concept of the project was to photographically imagine what it would be like to live in a compound, a place hidden away and fortified with weapons, a place to survive apart from society and defend oneself against intruders. After the atrocity of the US government separating children from their families and sending them to compounds called detention centers, my “Compound” photographs have come to mean something very different to me. The series is now entitled “My New Home”.
Instead of compounds being used to prevent people from coming in, like the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas or Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, compounds in this country are now being used as prisons, to prevent children from getting out. Both types of compounds share the characteristics of being stark, isolated, weaponized, and heavily fortified. It is one thing for people to voluntarily live together in a compound that protects them but to take children from their families and imprison them in such a place with strangers directing their lives is unconscionable.
The “My New Home” series, contrasts hard, sharp images of various compound spaces with the soft, unfocused images of children. The photographs visually document how completely inappropriate these places are for children. And as a response to “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade’s comment of "Like it or not, these are not our kids”, I offer photographs of children of differing ethnicities. All children are our children and should be protected, nurtured, and handled with care.
With these photographs, I add my outcry to the national conflict.