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Photography for social change: Jon Lowenstein documents the American immigrant

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TED Fellow Jon Lowenstein makes us look at the painful social issues that we may otherwise ignore through his bold photography. His project, “Shadow Lives, USA,” documents the journey of Mexicans and Central Americans migrating to the United States, recording their struggle as they reached American soil. The image above shows Gabriela Cruz — who grew up in Guerrero, Mexico, and has lived in the United States as an undocumented resident for 13 years — giving birth to her first American-born child in Cook County Hospital in Chicago. While Gabriela and her husband, Chava, have five children; the child in this photograph was the only born in the U.S.

It was announced today that Lowenstein has received the Audience Engagement Grant from the Open Society Documentary Photography Project. The Documentary Photography Project uses the medium of photography to expose human rights injustices against those most marginalized — with the ultimate goal of concrete social change. The Audience Engagement Grant is their platform to support those photographers, like Lowenstein, who have a passion for recording injustices.

With help from the grant, Lowenstein is beginning a new project — “Escondido de Escondido,” the next chapter for “Shadow Lives, USA.” The project focuses on Escondido, California, where tensions run high between new immigrant and locally-born residents. There, Lowesntein will train religious leaders and youth groups to not only be mediators in conflicts — but to photograph and document the skirmishes as they are diffused. Their photography, combined with images from “Shadow Lives, USA,” will be circulated as a handout to the population of the city. The idea: to bring unity to a disjointed community through images and storytelling.

For more news from Lowenstein, follow him on Twitter.