CONCORD, NH – During a time of debate on the national level regarding immigration, locally, one New Hampshire based photographer is honoring the diversity of new Americans resettling in the Granite State.
When capturing images of cultural diversity, Becky Field of Concord finds love when looking through her lens, not hate. While starting out on her certificate program at New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester (now Institute of Art and Design at New England College) eight years ago an act of hate occurred in Concord that shocked the community in the form of racist graffiti that was scrawled on the sides of some city homes. Field knew she needed to come up with a project to complete her certificate and got a head start on doing so when this incident unfolded in her city.
“So, I decided then that I would use my camera as a way of saying there’s better ways to treat people,” Field said. “We should welcome our new American neighbors, make them feel welcome, make them recognize that we are enriched by their presence in our communities.”
Since 2012, Field has been capturing photographs shedding light on the lives of immigrants in New Hampshire. Although these photographs helped Field gain her certificate, they also sparked a years-long project that has resulted in two books. Her brand new book, “FINDING HOME: Portraits and Memories of Immigrants” ($35) is now available for pre-order on her website, http://differentrootsnh.com/.
While the first book, “Different Roots, Common Dreams: New Hampshire’s Cultural Diversity” primarily features portraits of immigrants and refugees, this second book elaborates on the stories of those people included in each portrait. Net proceeds from sales of both books go to nonprofits that work with immigrants and refugees.
This new book displays the vitality of cultural diversity with portraits and transcribed interviews detailing the memories of a mix of 40 immigrants and refugees from around the state. Field includes individuals from 31 countries of origin and 17 communities in this second book. Some of her subjects came to New Hampshire for love while others arrived here in order to escape violence.
“I’ve made some incredible friends to the point that there’s some families that consider me part of their families,” Field said.
When sitting down with each individual, Field set out to learn about their lives in their home countries, what prompted them to leave, what caused them to feel they could not stay, what the transition was like and what barriers they faced, for example. Field said her photo project has turned into an advocacy type of work, as she is involved with several organizations and sits on boards and committees for organizations that support immigrants and refugees. For Field, this work is more than just taking pictures and walking away.
In addition to chronicling these immigrants’ experiences through documentary photography, Field has also partnered with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to establish the Different Roots, Common Dreams Scholarship Fund, which assists people of any age who came to the state as a refugee or immigrant who wants to pursue a four-year undergraduate degree. Field said that there has been a lot of spinoff from this work that keeps her constantly busy.
Moreover, Field remembers thinking she better hurry up with the first book before the issue faded away, explaining how after a crisis happens people rally around it in response before going back to their everyday lives.
Field further explained that when President Donald Trump entered the stage, there was a whole national focus on immigrants that felt to her very much like the person who wrote on the sides of those Concord homes. Field said that over the years because of the environment and atmosphere that Trump has led, issues of immigration have once again become very important, and truly critical for many of her immigrant friends.
“I think the current administration at all different levels but, led by Donald Trump, are doing a great deal to set us back in our attitudes of welcoming and being open to people from other cultures, other ethnicities and other religions,” Field said. “And I think that diversity, I’m very sure, I know that that diversity is essential to not only the wellbeing of life in New Hampshire but also to our economic stability and wellbeing.”
At the beginning of this project, Field thought she would mostly be taking pictures to show the diversity seen in the state’s immigrant communities, before soon realizing there was another objective – that being to honor those people featured in her photographs. Field’s objectives were to show the beauty and importance of diversity, and also honor those from other countries.
However, Field said another objective emerged, especially in the last few years due to national debates, discussions and arguments over diversity. Field explained that this project has ended up stimulating discussions and understanding about immigration and immigration policies, and refugee resettlement.