DREAMs Deferred is an original exhibition designed by The Immigrant Story in collaboration with acclaimed Portland photographer Jim Lommasson’s “What We Carried” storytelling project. Through short-form narratives, object stories, and vivid photography, this exhibition amplifies the voices of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central American who came to the United States as children or young adults. These individuals – collectively referred to as “DREAMers” – grew up navigating school, work, and social life without official papers.
The Immigrant Story is a Portland nonprofit whose vision is to provide curated and relevant content to enhance empathy and to create a more inclusive community. Through DREAMs Deferred, The Immigrant Story shares short-form narrative accounts of six undocumented immigrants, capturing each person’s continued resilience in the face of unique obstacles. Stunning portraits accompany the stories of these individuals and their journeys.
Adding a layer of intimacy to the narratives and photographs is a special display of Jim Lommasson’s “What We Carried” project featuring the stories of undocumented migrants traveling across the U.S.-Mexico border. This storytelling project asks immigrants, refugees, and genocide survivors to share items they carried on their journey to the United States. His work captures the result of a split-second decision these individuals must make when fleeing their homelands: “What do I leave behind, and what do I take with me?” After photographing the object, Lommasson prints the image onto photographic archival paper. The owner then writes directly on the photograph, reflecting on the item itself and the journey that brought them to the U.S. This process allows the participants to tell their own story in their own language and with their own hands.
The combination of the story, portrait, and treasured item of each individual allows viewers to look into that person’s eyes, read intimate details about their life, and see a meaningful artifact of their life history. The carried objects become more than just mementos of homes and lives left behind. As these ordinary items cross the border, they transform into the sacred. The result is the recognition that behind the terms “undocumented immigrants” or “alien” lies an individual with a story.
The DREAMs Deferred exhibition is made possible by the generous contribution of the Zidell Family Foundation.