Visitors to Marymount University in Arlington came face to face
with the portraits of youths living as undocumented immigrants in the United
States in a new photo exhibit titled “Youth Seeking Refuge, Unaccompanied.” The
exhibit, which is scheduled to run through March 26 in the university’s Barry
Gallery, captures the lives of youths caught between violence at home and an
ongoing debate on immigration reform.
Photojournalist Oliver Contreras seeks to give these youths a
platform to share their experiences of survival. For the past year and a half,
Contreras has recorded the experiences of this group while also trying to
retain the neutrality of a journalist.
These young people are leaders in their community and it is an honor for me to collaborate with them.
“These young people in these portraits not only represent
themselves and their stories but also millions of young people who share
similar experiences,” said Contreras at the exhibit’s opening reception Feb.
24. “Thanks to them we are starting to talk about these issues and because of
them changes can be achieved. These young people are leaders in their community
and it is an honor for me to collaborate with them.”
“Unaccompanied” was brought to Marymount through the efforts of
the university’s DREAMers club, a community formed by undocumented students
seeking higher education.
“Some of our students are actually in that situation and are
profiled in this exhibit so it was important for us to bring this to
Marymount,” said Matt Bakker, assistant professor of sociology. “In some sense
it is to express to our students that they are welcome, that we value them at
this community, and to educate the rest of our community about the
circumstances and life conditions that some of the valuable members of our
community have been through.”
The school will host a panel with several of the young people
portrayed in Contreras’ portraits March 22. The youths will talk about their
past experiences, their current situations, and their hopes and dreams for the