Nation of Newcomers began with a Facebook post. Photographer Aundre Larrow asked his friends and followers: “Where did your family immigrate to America from?” Larrow, who is currently based in Brooklyn, relocated from Jamaica to the United States with his family in 1993. After more than 200 people replied to his post, some of the most active respondents to the thread reached out to Larrow—they decided that this topic was one they should explore further.
Jose Silva, Natalie Lennox, and Vianel de la Cruz all teamed up with Larrow with the goal of documenting the immigrant stories of Americans, whether they had recently come to the country, or had been in the United States for generations. The result is Nation of Newcomers, an online portrait photo and interview series compiling these stories.
Given the current crisis state of American immigration, it can be easy to forget that the majority of Americans came to the country from somewhere else. Nation of Newcomers puts a focus on this reality by sharing real and diverse experiences of immigration. The project also has a personal significance for the team; like Larrow, videographer de la Cruz and photographer Silva both came to the United States in the early 1990s with their families, while Lennox’s family has roots in Poland and Britain.
“We believe being American means living in America, regardless of your citizenship status,” the team writes on the Nation of Newcomers website. “Diversity makes us stronger, as communities, as cities, as a society and as a country.”
Larrow tells us over email that they sourced photo subjects mostly through putting out calls on social media. “The day ended up being a large hang out where folks sat and listened while Natalie interviewed them,” Larrow says. “It was lovely; we sat in a small studio in Gowanus and while one person was getting interviewed, the room was full of strangers just quietly listening to their lived experience or family history.”
The result is a powerful series of images and interviews. Larrow shared some of his favorite portraits and quotes from the project here. Find more at Nation of Newcomers, and more of Larrow’s photography at his website.
“Immigrant—I’d define as one word: determination. I find that people that come here—determined to be successful, determined to enhance their lives and it goes back to the American dream—and it’s a possibility—and it’s a reality.” — Karl Zoltan
“American automatically to me means hope, because I know the more we keep trying the more we hustle, the more we grind every day the ice could turn.” — Janeivy Hilario
“I grew up in a very small town where there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me, so even though I didn’t have the first-hand experience of coming here from a different country it kind of felt like I was coming from a different country because people didn’t really know Spanish and you know people didn’t know culture at all.” — Vincent Alvarado
“We were never born with a sense of entitlement because we understand that without the hard work of our parents, of our families, of our ancestors we would never be where we are today.” — Jennifer Chang
“[My parents] just wanted us to have opportunities that they never would have gotten to have.” — Isabel Lopez