Cinthya Santos-Briones

Documentary Photographer
Location: New York City
Nationality: Mexican
Biography: Cinthya Santos Briones, is a Mexican photographer, anthropologist, ethnohistorian and community organizer based in New York. Her multimedia work uses a collaborative approach to tell stories about homeland, immigration, memory, identity and... read on


This project focuses on undocumented Mexican immigrant women who came to New York decades ago in search of opportunity for their families. Overtime they have built lives here and have become the elders of their community: the abuelas. Many have children and grandchildren living on either side of the border. Yet, twenty and thirty years later, still remain invisible and undocumented. The series centers on portraits of these women photographed in the intimacy of their homes. These images seek to convey the women’s relationship to place and the shaping and appropriation of their environment. In these photographs, the homes´ decorations become part of the women's wider symbolic recreation of culture, memory and ownership beyond borders.

I photograph these environmental portraits in a participatory manner. I ask the women: "How do you like to be seen or represented through photography?" They choose how and where they want to be seen in their homes and what outfits they want to wear. The series seeks to offer them the opportunity to face the camera and be depicted in a way that reflects their own sense of identity.

Although these grandmothers are seemingly well established in the city of New York, they must work in unstable jobs with low wages and are often the victims of exploitations and human rights violations.  They work as house cleaners, seamstresses, nannies, factory workers and in restaurants.