Shane Nelson captures refugee experiences through his photo lens, and the power of their portraits reflects back

October 29, 2018

CWS is thrilled to be partnering with photographer Shane Nelson to capture images of refugees and immigrants in the United States in their own environments. These photographs will be displayed in a gallery at this year’s Benefit for Change event.

Shane is a professional photographer based in NYC who specializes in adding a personal and intimate vision to his work. Shane has had the opportunity to work under some of the industry’s most highly regarded photographers, including first assistant to renowned celebrity portrait photographer Brigitte Lacombe. He has photographed everyone from celebrities to CEOs; we are honored that he is dedicating his time to this project and expanding his clientele to include refugees and immigrants served by CWS local offices.

Through this project, Shane is particularly interested in capturing refugees and immigrants in their own spaces, whether in their homes, their workplaces, or in our offices. Shane’s photos of CWS clients resettled by our Jersey City and Lancaster offices capture a beautiful and candid intimacy that creates a sense of empowerment and resilience among his subjects. When photographing clients, Shane aims to connect with the individuals and families he photographs and build a sense of trust, so that they don’t just see a camera lens, but an opportunity to connect with someone who wants to elevate their stories and experiences and provide a platform for them to tell their story through their own eyes. It is easy to drown in media headlines that dehumanize the experiences of refugees and immigrants by reducing them to numbers and talking points. Shane’s project suggests a drastic alternative to this by highlighting their individual human experiences and diverse identities beyond numbers and statistics.

Za Bawi Nawi and his brother; photo by Shane Nelson.

Among the refugees photographed are Za Bawi Nawi. Za arrived in 2016 with his family and graduated from High School. Za arrived knowing how to speak English well, purchased a vehicle and has his driver’s license. He is doing very well now working at a printing agency.

Joseph, Arlette, and their children. Photo by Shane Nelson.

Joseph Makossio and Arlette Mambueni arrived into the United States in 2016 with their two small children. They are from the Central African Republic and DRC, respectfully. Joseph is working in construction at a reputable business in Lancaster. They are doing very well, speak English and motivated to thrive.

Ali Nassif and his family. Photo by Shane Nelson.

Ali Nassif arrived from Syria in 2016 with his family, including his wife, their five children, and some extended family. This family is self-sufficient, speaks English and children are in school.

Eyerusalem Michael now works as an interpreter for CWS Jersey City. Photo by Shane Nelson.

You can come see Shane’s wonderful work, meet Shane, and even speak to some of the refugees photographed at our event on November 15th. Photographs will be for sale, and 50 percent of the profits will be donated back to those offices where the clients were photographed. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to celebrate the contributions of our refugee and immigrant neighbors and hear about their experiences through their own perspectives.

Purchase your ticket here.