A New Portrait Series Celebrates Immigrant Communities Throughout the U.S.
“The Land of Milk and Honey” is the latest project from creative director Alexander Julian.
The United States is often touted as a melting pot—a place shaped by the mix of people who have arrived from around the world, bringing their traditions, their cuisines, and their families with them. But for many who have come to the U.S. believing it to be the land of milk and honey—a place where the quality of life is high, and there are riches to be earned—the pursuit of the so-called American Dream is, of course, far more nuanced.
In a new portrait series titled “Land of Milk and Honey,” creative director Alexander Julian, or AJ, explores these ideas while celebrating the immigrants and first-generation Americans who make this country as fascinating as it is. “I’m from an immigrant family,” says AJ, who was born and raised in Texas by his Nigerian mother. “We had such a strong Nigerian community in Houston, and I realized that other immigrant cultures had the same type of pockets.”
Shot over five months during the pandemic, everywhere from Daly City in California to the city of Hialeah in Florida, the series showcases a number of families, whose portraits are the work of members of their own diaspora: from the photographers to the designers of the clothing worn, to the food served during shooting, each image was the collaborative effort by the community represented.
As the Fourth of July asks us to celebrate America, Julian asks us to consider who and what we are celebrating. “I thought it was important to take a step back and look at what it was that makes American great,” says AJ. “We as immigrants have spaces on this land, and we have rights to American culture because our culture is part of the DNA of America.”
Below, AJ tells us the story behind a selection of images from the series and the people they feature. You can find the entire collection on Instagram, which partnered with AJ on the series.
The Talib-Oso family, Alief, Texas
“Little Nigeria in Houston is a really small square, but then there’s a broader area called Alief, Texas, where all the Nigerians live. Basically all the businesses there are Nigerian.
This photo was taken in that square. It’s the same couple from the photo before. The reason we picked out this car was because we wanted to allude to when they first came to America together. It’s just them, without the family. And that car is the car that every Nigerian dad had in the ‘90s, or wanted in the ’90s. We worked with a studio owned by a Nigerian-American gentleman in Houston, and we borrowed his dad’s Benz from back then.
We pulled all these groceries and food products from the big Nigerian grocery store in the square, called Southwest Farmer’s Market. There are so many Nigerian food markets in Houston, but they all come from people who, when they first came to America, worked at Southwest Farmer’s Market. Finger Licking here is one of Houston’s first Nigerian restaurants. You have the Ghana Must Go bags—when we’re trying to move anything or traveling, Nigerians are using these bags and stuffing them to the brim. To this day I travel with these bags.”
Source: CNN Traveller