Crossing Over: Immigration Stories

MALTA Crossing Over: Immigration Stories - PREMIERE EXHIBITION

20/20 Photo Festival Philadelphia

September 30, 2023 - World Cyanotype Day

Cherry Street Pier

121 N Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106

For the first time ever exhibited in the United States, 7 new portraits and interviews made in Malta with the generous contributions from the US Embassy Malta and the Vilcek Foundation will be on view at Cherry Street Pier during the 20/20 Photo Festival.

Crossing Over: Immigration Stories is a series of interviews and portraits of immigrants, descendants of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers made through very intimate cyanotype photographic textile imprints made on the US-Mexico border, in Mexico, Northern and Southern Italy, and Malta. These portraits and testimonials of immigration experiences throughout some of the most controversial border crossing regions intend to humanize the experience of immigration and seeking a new life. Jackie Neale is a descendant of Italian immigrants [Foggia-Messina, Salerno-Monzo, Sicily-Gunta] that were fortunate enough to immigrate to the United States [South Philadelphia] in the early 1900s. Recent xenophobia and racism towards modern-day immigrants and egregious changes to immigration policy and asylum seeking to both the U.S. and Europe have become questionably against basic human rights. It is Jackie's belief these artworks offer an abstract viewing sensation to relax and provide a non-confrontational experience to connect to other people's stories. Through this experience "the other" disappears. 52 people contributed to 45 artworks. The 7 on view were the most recently made while on artist residency with Spazju Kreattiv of Valletta in Malta with the generous support of The Vilcek Foundation and the United States Embassy. 

All Portraits are accompanied by oral history audio interviews where participants share their immigration experience. All audio interviews are stored on the StoryCorps Archive and have been filed with the Library of Congress for the future to hear and use as qualitative research.

All immigration experiences are a disruption and a risk taken by those who wish for a better life somewhere else. My family wished for a better life and left Southern Italy in the early 1900s for the United States and landed in South Philadelphia. I love the stories I hear of all of my grandparent's families all living in close proximity to each other and how they made life full of joy and love while maintaining their deep Italian roots and pride here in the U.S.

It is because of these beautiful, but trying stories that I feel such gratitude for the sacrifices they made and risks they took migrating to the United States. There was no guarantee it would end up well. And it was clear, they realized they may never return to Italy because of the cost and the time. They had to adopt a whole new life, as all immigrants do. My family is no different than modern day immigrant families. I began to look closely at others experiences and realize how hard this choice is to make, and even harder to see fruition. Immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are quite literally the heroes of their families.

On Abstract Art & Empathy:

Case study: Abstraction, listening, and empathy by Jackie Neale -

Symposium European Cultural Centre Italy & Paris College of Art - 2020 Photography and Education: Formal, Non-Formal, and Informal | 2nd Conference on Photography and Education by Blurring the Lines

 US 2.0: What We Have In Common - on Hidden Brain

Fund this Project!

Funding thus far includes funds from: The United States Embassy, Mission EDC, The Vilcek Foundation, Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology, Spazju Kreattiv, The DeCosmo Family Foundation

Be a part of this Project:

If you find you are migrating, as an immigrant, descendant of immigrants, asylum seekers, or refugees and would like to share your experience I want to hear from you! Please email me at studio @

Using Format