The Illegal American

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Tear Sheets

Portrait of an illegal immigrant by photographer John Keatley.

Over the past few months, I have had several assignments featuring everyday people facing big challenges.  It’s a nice change of pace every once in a while, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet and work with people who have completely different stories than myself.  It’s a humbling feeling to photograph someone in their 4 million dollar home one day, and the next day photographing someone out in the sticks who is really excited and impressed by my Hyundai rental car.

This portrait is of an illegal immigrant who has lived and worked in America for the past 20 years.  There were no guarantees the subject would show up, which I guess is understandable considering the risks involved for her (being sent back to Mexico).  I was told I could not photograph her face, only her shadow.  However, after I met her and we talked for a while, she said she would let me photograph her from the back which is what I was hoping for.

I bought some small American flags the night before, and asked her if she would mind holding them.  She said, “No, I don’t mind holding the flags.  I love this country.”

Seattle Met / July 2010
Art Director: Benjamen Purvis

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Great shot, article and experience. It ‘s nice to be patriotic and it’s smart to get out of our shoes and walk in somebody else’s to understand the struggle; and not just to jump onto the wagon of hate, stereotypes and prejudices. I am glad she talks about “paying taxes” because that is the tip of the spear of anti-immigrant movements. People need to get informed, and not through FOX news. This is a walk already walked by many other countries and all of them have ended in violence. Let’s not allow it here in our country.
By the way, I AM an American citizen.

posted by Miguel on 06.30.10 at 8:05 am

John, I really dig all your posts, you have such a treasure trove of inspiring images. This one is especially awesome, considering the constraints you had. The picture, coupled with the dialogue and your recap, make for a very rich story. From Sarah Palin to illegal immigrants…talk about range. Keep up the good work! – Leon from North Carolina

posted by Leon Godwin on 06.30.10 at 8:59 am

Really cool.

posted by NeckBeard on 06.30.10 at 11:19 am

I really like this shot, the flags and arm position are uncomfortable to the eye, really sets the mood well.

posted by Ryan on 06.30.10 at 7:35 pm

A very simple and moving article. Great shot.

posted by chrisdavid42 on 07.03.10 at 6:28 pm

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