The American Dream: Migrant Workers in America Today, is an exhibition of black-and-white photographs made by Mark Paris and selected by celebrated photographer Mary Ellen Mark. Paris spent the past year on Long Island, where he grew up, documenting several communities of migrant workers and American nationals demonstrating against illegal aliens. Made in private as well as public settings, the resulting images put a human face on the national debate over immigration policy.
The American Dream bears witness to the sizable presence of migrant workers on Long Island for over half a century. The North Fork region was known as “Migrant Alley” in the late 1950s and 1960s, when thousands of day laborers could be found in farm labor camps. In April 2006 The New York Times reported than an estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants were in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The subjects in Mark Paris’s photographs are men from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras who find work in Farmingville, Freeport and other Long Island communities where the migrant labor pool is still plentiful today.
Through privileged access to private gatherings over many months, Paris captures the emotional landscape of often overlooked but tightly-knit communities. He followed both migrants and American nationals from the street corners, parking lots and other public spaces where they face off, to the places where they work and live. In two previous series, he documented an Italian-American social club where men have gathered for generations, and the residents of a nursing home adjacent to the Long Beach boardwalk that has since been demolished.