escondido on escondido

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Upon his return from a two week intensive documentary workshop with students between the age of 16 – 18 in Escondido, California, Jon Lowenstein recounts the experience in his own words:

“Thanks to the Open Society Foundation’s Audience Engagement grant, I just wrapped up an amazing two weeks working with a talented group of students in Escondido, California.

Escondido has been known internationally for its passage of extremely punitive anti-immigrant laws. As with any community the reality on the ground is far more complex than an outsider’s view.


A photograph from the Eucalyptus Apartments in Escondido, California. Yazmin Perez

The idea behind the workshop was to use my long-term project Shadow Lives USA to help spark a conversation and figure out innovative ways for young people to engage each other with the more difficult issues going on in their community. It’s been exciting and challenging so far.

During our first week we settled into the Municipal Center for the Arts not knowing what to expect, but over the course of two weeks this small, but impassioned group of students began to figure out what made them tick and what they wanted to show about their community.



Dyptych of my father. Nathaniel Weir.


It’s been an exciting process and we’re just getting started. In the fall we will meet again to work together on a special design workshop aimed at showing the Escondido community and the world exactly how the young people see their own community.

Each student has taken on a tough issue that they want to tackle. Yazmin Perez is documenting young dreamers who are undocumented immigrants and were brought to the United States by their parents. Nathaniel Weir is taking on the subject of homeless veterans from the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each student will continue to document other challenging issues that hit close to home. I’m looking forward to seeing how these young people challenge their fellow residents to look more closely at their own community and through this process help us all to get to know our America just a bit more intimately.


Self-portrait by Dakota Ortiz


Please take a look at the work that some of the students have done so far. Michael Genovese rolled in from Los Angeles to help the students make a small, but powerful installation. Genovese, an amazing conceptual installation artist and friend who originally hails from Chicago, helped each student to take stock of what was most important to them, boil it down and then find an innovative way to present the work.

My father on break at his job. Rosa Romero



My father’s hands. Rosa Romero

I can just say that the whole experience was a total blast: it’s been a great journey so far, and I can’t wait until I return in the fall. Keep an eye on our Facebook updates, Twitter feeds and the publication that will be released later this year.”

The project is also made possible by a small grant from Photowings.

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