By Christopher Barnard
NOTE: This story was updated on May 18 to reflect extended dates for the photo exhibition at Dimond Library.
Compared to most states, New Hampshire isn’t very racially diverse – more than 90 percent of the population is white. Even so, our state is home to a thriving community of immigrants.
Hoping for a chance at a better and more prosperous life, and seeking the freedom to express, celebrate, and share their culture, these migrants traveled from all around the world to settle in the Granite State.
Helping to bring their vibrant cultural diversity to light is Becky Field, a local photographer who has spent the past six years documenting the lives of New Hampshire’s immigrants through carefully crafted pictures.
Field, who in 2015 released her photographs in a book titled “Different Roots, Common Dreams,” is the currently featured artist in the UNH Dimond Library museum, located on the bottom floor of the library.
Her photographic journey began in 2011, when she heard that hateful graffiti was written on the sides of the houses of four African refugee families in Concord.
“The media wouldn’t even reprint the words used at the time, they were so bad,” said Field, a Concord native, “I wanted to use my photography to show that they [the refugee families] are welcome in our community.”
Throughout her journey, Field attended the public and private events of immigrants and refugees from more than 50 countries, and even visited the homes of some of her subjects.
“What I didn’t expect when I started were the sacred ceremonies that people in these immigrant communities would allow me to be a part of,” said Field. Being photographed, she added, seemed to make her subjects “feel honored and recognized.”
Photographing everything from religious events, to dances, and even funerals, Field said that her favorite part of the whole experience has been learning about the journeys of people with such diverse backgrounds, and about what they come from.
Even though Field has taken over 180,000 photographs on this project alone, she feels just as passionate about documenting New Hampshire’s cultural diversity as she did seven years ago.
“I only wish I’d started this about 40 years ago,” said Field, laughing, “I’m planning to keep on going until I can’t anymore.”
The exhibit, which features selected photographs from her collection and a copy of her book, is located on level one of Dimond Library in the Special Collections and Archives section and has been extended through June 29. But you can see some of her photos and information about where her subjects are from in this arcGis project.
More information on “Different Roots, Common Dreams” and a link to buy the book can be found on Field’s website.