The exhibition Portraits of Hope: Faces of Refugee Resettlement in Central New York depicts survivors of war, genocide, and political strife who came to the U.S. and settled in the Utica region after living in refugee camps in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. This exhibition of more than 30 photographs celebrates diversity, and confronts stereotypes about resettlement while exploring the challenges and aspirations of local refugees starting over in a new land.
Since 1982, the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees has welcomed more than 15,000 people to Utica, which now enjoys one of the highest concentrations of refugees of any American city. Lynne Browne, working with Dr. Kathryn Stam’s and SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s project Refugees Starting Over, photographed the subjects of Portraits of Hope at cultural events in Utica and Rome from 2012 to 2016. While many of the subjects came to Utica over the past 15 years, some arrived only a few days before they were photographed. The portraits capture the pain of the past as well as the promise of a new future: memories of love and joy mingle with the distress of departure and novel experiences, both bright and bewildering, in a new land.
Presented in conjunction with The World through His Lens, the photographs in Portraits of Hope illustrate the pride and happiness our local refugees share in their culture and traditions, and the joy they find in celebrations that honor and welcome their heritages in our community.