Since 2000 nearly 15,000 refugees have resettled in Syracuse.   Most families have fled extreme poverty, environmental disasters, political turmoil, conflict or worse and have since began life anew, many arriving in Syracuse without a penny or a word of English. These communities — spanning individuals from throughout Africa, The Middle East, Ukraine, Cuba and parts of Asia.   Since moving to Syracuse in July 2018 I’ve begun to explore these communities and have had the privilege of being allowed into the lives of some of these families as they work to recreate “home” thousands of miles away from the ones they once knew.  What I have come to know of individual stories and journeys to Syracuse combined with my personal experiences abroad stands in sharp contrast to what many understand and believe about this amorphous, yet individually unique group that is often referred to as a single entity — “refugees.”
       
     
 On February 1, 2018 Kaylee Marshfield turned 6 years old. That same day her parents received a call that explained why their eldest daughter had been sick for several weeks. Todd and Kristina were told Kaylee had a Wilm’s Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer.  I met Kaylee and her family in August 2018 at the New York State Fair; it was six months after her diagnosis and at the time Kaylee was in the midst of chemotherapy treatment, having lost her hair and a significant amount of weight. I spent the remaining five days of the fair with Kaylee and her family, slowly earning their trust and learning more about Kaylee’s condition as well as the family’s struggle to endure the financial and emotional strain of caring for a very sick child. As weeks and then months passed we grew close and it became clear hers was not "just" the story of a child with cancer but rather one of the nuanced dynamics of a family as they together navigate her diagnosis, treatment and life once found cancer-free. Through it all, Kaylee has balanced life as a first-grader, daughter, sister and cancer patient with the grace and maturity of someone many times her age.  ----  If I’d been told one of the most significant relationships I’d form in 2018 would be to a young girl of 7 I'd have found that difficult to imagine. But, near a year later, I've much gratitude for this young lady; her ongoing trust has taught me the value of long-term work and, without knowing it, Kaylee has kept me grounded and in touch with my own inner child, providing balance and an element of life I hadn’t known was missing.
       
     
Momentary
       
     
       
     
 “La cruel realidad”, or the "cruel reality", is an ongoing family photo project of undocumented families living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The aspiration is to visually depict the familial fragmentation that occurs when undocumented parents are deported and their documented children remain, often left in limbo.  Several of the families worked together to choose the name of this project, stating this was their life, their reality and though it was a cruel one they would do whatever possible to remain together.   One of the families I photographed recently asked I no longer share their image citing fear of retaliation and deportation. When we began this project there was over 20 families excited to participate, many saying that for the first time they felt empowered to have their voice heard.  Since the Trump administration began cracking down on undocumented migrants the project has come to a near halt. The families once encouraged have been silenced.