Dreams Delayed is a multimedia documentary web project I produced for my masters thesis.
I wanted to tell the overarching story of access to higher education for undocumented students using three different stories: The story of a brother and sister, both were raised in the United States, one of them is undocumented. The story of a teacher who sees the daily trials of her students who are undocumented. And the story of young man who has made the decision to be vocal about being undocumented and unafraid.
BORN AND RAISED
Alice was born in the United States. Her brother Daniel was not. Alice watched her older brother excel in high school. She saw him faced with the reality that as an undocumented student many doors are closed to him. Now they are fighting together to get him the opportunities that she was given at birth.
In “Born & Raised” it was important to conceal the identity of the two main subjects in order to protect Daniel. I decided to shoot Alice and Daniel’s story primarily in tightly composed details. Details are a powerful tool for intimate storytelling, and one that does not require a full shot of a person’s face.
This approach pushed my technical as well as emotional boundaries. Because I had to shoot differently, I had to see differently. I would crouch down, look for new angles, and focus on visually compelling details that did not rely on two eyes, a nose and a mouth. It pushed me emotionally by making me get passed the “intruder nerves” very quickly. Not only did these young people have to be willing to let me into their lives, they had to be willing to let me into their personal space.
This film received an award of excellence in the 66th College Photographer of the Year Awards in the 2011 individual multimedia essay project.
LESSONS IN HOPE
Like many good teachers, Kat Rangel, is constantly looking for ways to motivate her students. In her 10-year tenure she has watched talented undocumented students “deflate” as they learn about the barriers they face to going to college. She has put her hope in the DREAM Act.
Jose Rico was brought to the United States when he was 13 years old. He excelled in middle and high school and was accepted into six universities, but he could not afford to go. As an undocumented student in North Carolina, he would have to pay out of state tuition and could not apply for financial aid.
Last spring, Rico was arrested during a sit-in in Atlanta, GA. He is among the growing population of undocumented youth declaring their immigration status in an effort to raise awareness about college access for undocumented students.
This story is based on an interactive Q&A with Jose that was part of my three-part multimedia thesis project.