The portraits are at once intimate and imposing; some stand 25 feet tall. In the spring, they appeared throughout New Haven, Conn.—50 photographs of immigrants and refugees from all over the world who now call the city home. Mounted on framed stands in New Haven Green, draped from the sides of buildings and hung inside lobbies, the images confronted viewers with questions about the very fabric of America.
The portraits are part of WE ARE: A Nation of Immigrants, the latest in a series of public art installations by Joe Standart ’73 under the umbrella project Portrait of America. A self-taught photographer, Standart spent 25 years in commercial advertising, traveling the globe for shoots. Struck by the poverty he witnessed, he says he “began to feel that most Americans don’t really understand the freedom and opportunities we have.” The experience inspired 2006’s Portrait of a City: New London, Conn., in which he made studio portraits of parking attendants, homeless people, newspaper publishers and gallery workers. Portrait of a City: Hartford followed in 2010. In New Haven, a so-called “sanctuary city,” he focused exclusively on immigrants and refugees, some of whose portraits and stories appear on the pages that follow.Standart says he hopes to expand WE ARE: A Nation of Immigrants to other cities across the U.S., adding: “I see my role as reminding the rest of us of the roots of our country.”