RANDOLPH, NJ- Wednesday, May 7, Josh Lane, senior at Randolph High School, unveiled his project “The Immigrants’ Story” in the RHS library. The project was compiled of multiple bird’s eye view photographs and stories of immigrant students in Randolph.
Lane and his father first came up with the idea of telling immigrants’ stories at the beginning of the year. “Looking at our own story as immigrants, it seemed a great story to tell,” he said. Lane is an immigrant himself, having moved to Randolph from England at age 11.
The project ultimately grew into something larger than just telling stories of immigration. “As this year has gone on, my work has grown to focus on this theme of identity,” Lane said, “and at this age I think my peers can relate this pursuit of an identity can often take us down paths we regret or we end up searching for acceptance and trying to be something we are not. In that process there is so much emotional turmoil we as teenagers go through just trying to find that identity. Now, throw in immigration to a country that maybe you don't know much about or don't speak the language, it's a huge step backwards in that individuals pursuit of who they are or just feeling accepted that natural [thing] we all seem to crave.”
Lane set out, collecting stories from 15 immigrant families and doing what he loves best, taking photographs. He started developing an interest in photography in 7th grade, following in the footsteps of his father, who has had the hobby since he was in college. “It went from a fun father son thing to being what I live and breathe,” he said.
Photography grew into something bigger and more powerful than a hobby for Lane as time went on. “The power that my work has and the emotion I've been able to evoke with it is why I do what I do,” Lane said referring to his previous project “The Unsung Heroes of RHS.” The project was also displayed in the RHS library, featuring faculty and staff members of the high school, whose everyday good deeds seem to go unnoticed.
“Last year at ‘The Unsung Heroes,’ one of the subjects was so moved by what I had written and captured in my photograph he cried and gave me a hug, we've been terrific friends since,” Lane recounted.
After the success from last year, Lane was looking for that same effect to occur with “The Immigrants’ Story” this year. Last Wednesday night, the subjects of the project and their families crowded into the RHS library, along with other immigrants and residents of Randolph for the unveiling.
The event opened with a video created with help from RHS Mass Media students. It featured the English as a Second Language teacher, Ms. Black, talking about what it means to be an immigrant, along with a number of other staff and students. After the video ended, Lane then talked a little bit about the project. He provided “insights,” as he called it, to what immigrant families really go through.
Lane’s photographs sat on top of library book shelves, while the stories of each individual was displayed through his website, photographybyjoshlane.com, on computers around the room. Each story is unique, detailing the student’s experience of emigrating to Randolph. The photographs are taken at a bird’s eye view, and Lane had a reason behind this method.
“The reason I did this is because I wanted to take an approach that did the best job of conveying the individual's story - there is so much that goes into anyone's identity, let alone the identity of an immigrant, and, to capture it all in one or two photographs, I found this perspective to do a fantastic job of really showing off that identity or that story.”
Spending the past year with subjects of his project left an impact on Lane. He said, “The thing is as a journalist you're not allowed to interfere you have to just report what you observe, that's been impossible to do. I've made such amazing connections with these families. I'm just grateful.”
Lane also hopes to impact others through his project. “I'm not a [National Geographic] guy and I'm not reaching millions,” he admitted, “but being able to share this with my community, and maybe inspire a change, is so encouraging.”
Even though Lane is graduating RHS, his cause will live on in the high school. His brother, Ben Lane, will be working to make new immigrant students feel more welcome to the RHS community by connecting them with “someone who comes from the same or similar place as well as a local Randolph student,” according to photographybyjoshlane.com. The website also says that this type of program will help immigrant students “to not just survive here but to thrive.”
Lane’s presentation at “The Immigrants’ Story” exhibit and the project itself can be found at photographybyjoshlane.com.
The exhibit will also be on display in the RHS library for the remainder of the school year. Lane will also be a part of the Option II Showcase at Randolph High School on Tuesday, May 27 at 6:30 p.m.