Good Trouble | ELLEN JACOB

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In Partnership with Cambridge College, 2022

Banner Art detail: Ellen Jacob, "Amanda and her Daughter| Patricia and her Daughter"

Image Gallery

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Artist Statement

Together Forever: Immigrants

My practice is rooted in social justice, portraying unjust and inhuman assumptions and practices in ways that force injustice into the light. I want to cultivate a culture of visibility, where our unseen connections are exposed by fixing our gaze across the borders constructed to separate us. My artistic goal in this work is to break down barriers and strengthen communities. As someone who accompanies immigrants to immigration court and their ICE check-ins, I see the human pain of families torn apart, many living in fearful communities. I create these images because I believe we must build human connections between the undocumented and the rest if we are to tear down the walls that divide us. We are all human.

I want the viewer to question their preconceived ideas. I want the viewer to be open to the vision of a more just world. I want to invoke John Lewis’s refrain that protest—creating good trouble—is how we create a more equitable world. Under the threat of deportation, many of the women I photographed chose to live in sanctuary churches with their children to keep their families together. Protest, in the service of a better world, is the best kind of trouble.

In this multi-year series, I photograph immigrants against metaphoric backgrounds of walls to bring attention to them. The faces of the undocumented are hidden, highlighting how invisible they must be. Citizens, often including their own US-born children, and documented immigrants' faces are shown. I see this work as part of an approach to portraiture born of a need to protect the undocumenteds’ identity while making them very visible. Faces remain hidden and intimate portraits emerge through subtle body angles, wrinkles in clothing, hairstyles, a head tilt, a hand gesture.

The images are a collaborative process, each person choosing their wall and position to be photographed. Each image holds a deep place in my heart as their stories are such powerful examples of the strength of the human spirit.


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