"Immigrant Status" is an ongoing photography project that began with my conversations with customers of the commercial photo studio in Chicago that I opened in 2017. Studio Soo specializes in portrait photography, and I have clients who have immigrated to the U.S. from all over the world - Mexico, Chile, India, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, etc. I have collaborated with the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago, the Korean Ministers Association of Illinois, and other organizations, to provide free passport photos and family portraits to immigrant families. During these photo shoots, my subjects and I discuss the difficulties they face as U.S. residents with immigrant status - not only the threat of deportation, but the aspiration to build a better life for themselves and their families.
I came to Chicago in 2012 from South Korea as an international graduate student; late last year, my artist's petition for a green card was finally approved. I am fortunate. However, there was a two-year period in which, while my application was pending, everything was insecure in case of rejection and deportation. My wife and I, and our two children were in a very difficult situation--one that we will never forget. We are grateful for the support we received from our friends and family, since we could not have remained in the U.S. without their help.
The story of our sacrifices and hardships, is a common one for most immigrant families. Like my wife and I, they want a better life for themselves and for their children. These portraits are intended to celebrate their ambitions--and also to celebrate what it's truly great about America.