Cinthya Santos Briones
Cinthya Santos Briones

This project focuses on undocumented Mexican immigrant women who came to New York decades ago in search of opportunity for their families. Overtime, they built their lives here and have become elders of their communities: the abuelas. Many have children and grandchildren living on either side of the borders. Yet 20 and 30 years later, they still remain invisible and undocumented.

I made portraits of these women in the intimacy of their own homes, seeking to convey the women’s relationship to place, and the shaping and appropriation of their environment. In these photographs, home decorations become part of the women’s wider symbolic recreation of culture, memory and ownership beyond borders.

I photograph these environmental portraits in a participatory manner. I ask the women, “How do you like to be seen or represented through photography?” They choose how and where they want to be seen in their homes and what outfits they want to wear. The series seeks to offer them the opportunity to face the camera and be depicted in a way that reflects their own sense of identity.

Artist Bios

  • Cinthya Santos Briones

    Cinthya Santos Briones

    Before becoming a documentary photographer and photojournalist, Cinthya Santos Briones studied anthropology and ethnohistory, which led her to work as a researcher at different institutions in Mexico, focused on the study of indigenous and rural communities. Her interest in documentary photography emerged through the ethnographic work she has done as an anthropologist in the indigenous communities of Mexico. She has documented ceremonial and healing rituals, immigration, and the new transnational lives of migrants in New York.

    Since then, her work has been influenced by the struggle for human rights, focusing on issues of migration, gender, and identity. The complex relationship between homeland, immigration, memory, and self-representation has been at the center of her work.
    Cinthya graduated from the Visual Journalism and Documentary Practice Program at the International Center of Photography in New York City.

    In the autumn of 2016, she received a fellowship grant from the Magnum Foundation, and an En Foco photography fellowship in 2017. Cinthya has published her work in The New York TimesPDNLa JornadaThe California Sunday MagazineVOGUE, Open Society Foundations, BuzzFeedThe Nation Magazine, among others. She was twice a fellow of the State Fund for Culture and the Arts of México (FONCA).

    In 2018, Cinthya became a grantee of the Magnum Foundation, and of National Geographic, with the project: Ethnographic Mosaic of Migrant Children Experiences in the Americas. Cinthya has worked in pro-immigrant organizations in New York as a community organizer, and as an adjunct faculty at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She is co-author of the book The Indigenous Worldview and its Representations in Textiles of the Nahua community of Santa Ana Tzacuala, Hidalgo.


  • United Photo Industries (UPI)

    United Photo Industries (UPI)

    United Photo Industries (UPI) is a New York based nonprofit organization that works to promote a wider understanding of, and increased access to, the art of photography.

    Since its founding in 2011, UPI has rapidly solidified its position in the public art landscape by continuing to showcase thought-provoking, challenging, and exceptional photography from across the globe. In its first seven years, UPI has presented the work of more than 2,500 visual artists in gallery exhibitions and public art installations worldwide.

Abuelas: Portraits of The Invisible Grandmothers

 archive : 2017

Featuring: Cinthya Santos Briones

Curated by: James Estrin David Gonzalez

Presented by: United Photo Industries (UPI)
  • United Photo Industries (UPI)


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