Yearly Review

DeportationImmigrant-s©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

One of the benefits of going through the gauntlet of contest deadlines in January is the self-review of one’s past year as a photographer.   You look back and get a chance to see what went well, what didn’t, and where you could have done better.  The photo above was a favorite from last year, that was largely unseen since it appeared in an online slideshow for a couple seconds. It was taken from within a bus in which a couple dozen Mexican nationals were being deported for illegal immigration. The light coming from the window was the sunrise, giving them a last look of Chicago before they were flown to the border. Everyone’s story was different. Some were painfully uprooted.  Others were happy to get a free trip home, determined to return. But the picture was a quiet moment – whether for contemplation, or calculation…

Citizens, Chicagoans

©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

I know you’ve seen it before. It was a naturalization ceremony, but this time at Daley Plaza.  In the plaza there were more than 100 people from about 35 countries…so many life stories. My thoughts were with my Dad who came from Cuba more than a half century ago…The man at center was just bubbling the whole time. You couldn’t help but notice him. He was an Iraqi who waved the U.S. flag most of the ceremony. Even his son on the edges said, “I didn’t know he would be so excited about this”. It was his second time taking the citizenship test, and this time he passed.  This was one assignment where I found myself smiling throughout.

Deported in Pink

Illegal Immigrant Deportation

©2009 Chicago Tribune

Photographer note: I’m in the middle of a follow-up on a story about the deportation of illegal immigrants from the United States.  The above photo was from a recent trip in which a Tribune reporter and myself were given rare access to the Immigration Customs Enforcement flights that transport illegal immigrants back to their home countries. You can see the story here.  As you can see,  detainees don’t get a change of clothing. So this woman unfortunately had to wear pumps all the way back to the Mexican border, and beyond. This was one of those situations where you take a small detail and blow out its emphasis to provide more insight into a situation…I’ll publish the update when the Tribune publishes….