Jon Lowenstein

Jon Lowenstein specializes in long-term, in-depth documentary explorations that confront the realms of power, poverty, and social vi…

About Shadow Lives USA

Shadow Lives USA is a decade-long project that humanizes, in a highly intimate fashion, the experiences and lives of the millions of men and women who leave their homes in search of a better life in the United States. Overwhelmingly, these men and women leave to escape the brutal social violence and grinding poverty that increasingly define the conditions of life for poor and working people from Central America to the United States.I have witnessed the increasingly difficult odds that undocumented immigrants face as they encounter social violence and dire poverty in their homelands. These dangers include increasing levels of social violence, a brutal smuggling trade that systematically exploits them, an increasingly punitive legislative environment in the United States and a far tougher global economy in which they compete.To show this reality I have documented social violence in Guatemala, deportation flights from the United States to Mexico and Guatemala, illegal border crossings to the United States, undocumented migrants who’ve been handicapped while working on the job, migrant deaths in the desert, and the increasing militarization of the US/Mexico border. I have also spent considerable time with families torn apart by the schizophrenic federal immigration policy. I have also followed the intense effort by the migrant community to organize and fight for a place in their new country.

I began this project in the year 2000 and have been following this issue ever since. During this time I’ve spent years covering the issue of social violence in Guatemala and Mexico, crossed borders with undocumented immigrants seeking a better life, did ride alongs with Border Patrol and covered deportation flights with ICE and many other things. I’ve witnessed both the incredible resilience of the men and women who are seeking to better their lives both in the home countries and also the intense reality of life on the migrant trail from Central America through Mexico into the interior of the United States. My father left Germany at age 4 alone on the Kindertransport and was only reunited with his family two years later after spending time in England. He always imparted in my brothers and I the true gift that coming to United States was and helped newly arrived immigrants whenever he could.

The project has been supported by organizations and grants from Nikon, Getty Images, the Alicia Patterson Foundation, Kodak and others.