Rachel Yi ’16 knew what she was getting herself into when she arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, with her camera, but she wasn’t going to let her fear of judgement stop her.
For the past four years, Yi has been traveling to Tijuana once a month for community service with her mother’s church, and she stays for a week during the summertime. While there, she visits senior homes and women’s shelters.
Yi began the service project expecting to help others, but found that she had just as much to gain from the relationships she built. Many of the people she interviewed had been deported from California. Her hope is to elicit change and be an activist for poverty.
“Taking these pictures was an enlightening, life-changing experience for me,” Yi wrote in her artist statement. “I wanted to capture this sense of optimism despite the challenging circumstances and to portray the subjects in an uplifting manner.”
Yi is currently creating a documentary about deportation, poverty and the sense of community that she found in Tijuana.
“I think it’s such an ambitious, beautiful, powerful body of work. Just being her teacher, I’m super proud of what she’s accomplished this year and pulling in aspects that I saw from last year that she’s been working with. This drive for creating this documentary style of work is empowering,” photography teacher Marya Alford said.