A Creative Pro Bono Partnership
Mobile Studio Dimensions: Varied - from 8x8 10 12x12
Guests: Varied, typically 20-50 per engagement
Equipment: 2 D800 Camera Bodies, Nikkor 24-70 f2.8mm lens, Profoto lighting equpment, 7’ overhead umbrella, (1) 4’ strip light, social media kiosk, printer, editing bay, video hub, wind machine, classic black backdrop with variety of textured overlays, Zoom H4N voice recorder, PA system & headsets, 2 iPads for Guest sign-in.
Jonsar Personnel: 1 photographer, 1 interviewer, 1 editor, 1 guest experience coordinator.
FWD.us is a nonprofit advocacy group that works for meaningful reform of the U.S. immigration system. For several years, we engaged in a pro bono partnership to help FWD.us create portraits of Dreamers and undocumented Americans. FWD.us believes—as we do—that visual storytelling is a powerful tool for inspiring change.
For this project, we combined our premium photo session experience with a documentary-style approach. In addition to photographing our subjects, we interviewed them, then transcribed key responses and composited their words onto their portraits.
FWD.us coordinated multiple sessions in New York, bringing in groups of 20 to 50 people at a time. (In addition to photographing Dreamers and undocumented Americans, we also held sessions with staff and volunteers within the organization who had personal stories to share from their experiences working on the front lines of immigration advocacy.)
Although the goals of these sessions were different from those of the festive events we often shoot, our core mission remained the same: To bring out the best, most beautiful and most honest version of everyone who stepped in front of our cameras.
Several subjects told us that they were unaccustomed to speaking out about their immigration status—it was a source of fear and anxiety, something they’d spent a long time hiding. Our job was to create a safe, supportive environment in which people could share their stories on their own terms, knowing that we were there to celebrate them for who they really were. After the sessions, we heard from many folks that it was a liberating experience to finally be able to share their truth.
FWD.us featured our composited portraits on their homepage and social media channels, and used them as inspiration for successful national campaigns that asked supporters to share their own photos and immigration stories.