Dominican-born visual artist Arlette Cepeda has focused her attention on capturing immigrant stories through her lens through a “black and white” photographic exhibition on Staten Island.
In Hispanic Heritage Month, the photographic exhibition called “Stories of Essential Immigrants” represents an intimate and at the same time human portrait of the condition of the undocumented in New York City.
It narrates through portraits and short stories of stories that accompany it, how day laborers despite being called “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic, still remain invisible.
It is, as the artist has detailed, a photographic documentary project that focuses on highlighting the challenges and opportunities that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for members of the Staten Island immigrant community.
Cepeda’s primary goal is to elevate and validate the immigrant experience and its impact on our Staten Island community.
“I am interested in documenting the experiences of the often forgotten, silenced or omitted immigrant population of this particular neighborhood on the north coast,” explained the artist.
During this Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, it is a time to recognize the diversity of traditions, efforts, and stories that unite us despite the disproportionate human cost caused by the pandemic that was stubborn in the Latino and undocumented community.
With the exhibition of these photographs, Arlette Cepeda maintains the hope of being able to help raise awareness, increase empathy, acceptance and understanding of otherness, greatly reducing the gap and discrimination that immigrants often face.
Cepeda’s work goes beyond photography. “I have been so moved by the stories you have told me so far! The resilience of our community is truly incredible. The history of González’s family is an example, ”he added.
What motivated you to carry out this project and does it have any special significance to carry it out in Staten Island?
– I wanted to integrate my passion for art with my community work through La Colmena and document how the Immigrant community was greatly affected by the pandemic because you feel that little attention was being paid to this community. Like wanting to give it a voice and make it feel.
Of the stories you documented, which was the one that impacted you the most?
– There were many, but one of the ones that struck me the most was that of a nurse who lost her mother as one of her intubated patients, and the impotence of not being able to save her. That touched me very strongly.
Why is it important for you to create empathy, awareness and respect towards the immigrant community?
– Because they are part of my community and because I am the daughter of immigrants and I want everyone to know and value their contributions and sacrifices.
What do you want to achieve and project with this community project?
– I hope that this project can help raise awareness about the immigrant reality and see that we have all been affected in one way or another by this pandemic, but that at the same time we are a resistant community and we continue to fight to get ahead.
A Message to Our New York City Immigrant Community
– Even in the dark we can find the light and there are still good people who want to help and community centers like La Colmena that can provide support.
The exhibition will take place in the two venues of La Colmena, during the months of September and October.
The inauguration took place on Saturday, September 11, at 88 Canal Street in Stapleton and the second on Saturday, October 2, at 774 Port Richmond Avenue, in Port Richmond.
There will be a virtual exhibition through Facebook Live on Wednesday, October 20 at 6:00 PM