Overshadowed lives: Estamos Aqui' in Case Gallery

Posted by Audrey Nelson

Skidmore College's "¡Estamos Aqui!" ("We Are Here") exhibit in Case Gallery celebrates the Latino immigrant population in the Saratoga Springs area.

Through the Latino Community Advocacy Program of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, this documentary photography project displays 11x17 black and white photographs, both digital and film, taken by individuals in the Latino immigrant population. Each photograph includes a description from the photographer, and each represents an aspect of their daily lives. This is the fifth annual exhibit of this project.

"The goal of the project is to overcome all of the barriers preventing the voices of immigrants themselves from being heard and allow them to come forward and hopefully, through the photos, engage with members of our community," said Krystle Nowhitney, coordinator of the Advocacy Program.

The photos depict everything from family members to a child's baseball game to the horses that many of the photographers work with. "In every photo too, I think there is a sense of pride. Whether the photo is of bicycles or women cooking, the images represent a sense of pride in who they are, the work they do and the opinion or view they may be presenting," Nowhitney said.

The Latino population in the Saratoga Springs area plays a large role in the town's renowned horse racing season, making it no surprise that the exhibit mostly displays images of the horses and the track. Each photograph is accompanied with a description from the photographer, often in Spanish and translated into English.

Many view the horses they work with as symbols of beauty, which is reinforced in the descriptions. Carlos Cotrina, who works as an exercise rider at the racetrack, wrote of his photograph depicting two horses looking over at a third, "the other two horses are admiring the beauty of this mare."

Ariel Alvarez, from Guatemala, currently works as a groom but dreams of becoming an exercise rider. Of his photograph, "The Tranquil Mulberry Mare," he wrote, "I liked taking this picture of this horse because of how she looked. She looked very beautiful as if she was sleeping… I hope people think that she is beautiful since it seems that this animal is in a place where no one bothers her."

Every year for the project, the EOC organizes a series of photography workshops, provides cameras and organizes a jury of volunteers to select the photographs to be displayed in the exhibit. Volunteers also matte and frame the photos and schedule exhibits throughout the community. Photographer Skip Dickstein led the workshops, and also processed the final photos.

When students in EOC's English as a Second Language class and students involved with the Latino Community Advocacy Program were told about the photography project, they were skeptical.

"Most students had never done photography before, and some were a little skeptical that they had the ‘talent' or ‘ability' to be successful. We assured students that no experience was necessary and that the point of the classes was so that they could learn," Nowhitney said.

"Latino immigrants, particularly those working in low-wage jobs behind the scenes, are often overlooked. During a time when the debate over immigration in the U.S. is becoming increasingly hostile toward immigrants, it is important to present alternate representations," Nowhitney said.

The sale of photographs and note cards benefits Saratoga EOC's Latino Community Advocacy program. The exhibit will run until Nov. 15.

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