Across the United States, communities of faith are offering physical refuge to undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary is the last alternative for keeping families together while they fight for a suspension of deportation.
In the absence of any significant governmental protection, immigrants are the ones at the front lines pursuing humanitarian strategies. Positioning those who take sanctuary as resistance leaders, Cinthya’s work centers the emotional, psychological, and political impact of taking sanctuary, while showing the poignant, quiet, and tender moments of establishing home, routine, and community–imagery rarely depicted in the mainstream representation of asylum seekers.
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 Times, PDN, La Jornada, The California Sunday Magazine, VOGUE, Open Society Foundations, BuzzFeed, The 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.
Magnum Foundation expands creativity and diversity in visual storytelling, activating new audiences and ideas through the innovative use of images. Through grant making, mentorship, and creative collaborations, we partner with socially-engaged imagemakers exploring new models for storytelling.
This program was produced with the support of Magnum Foundation’s Counter Histories initiative supporting projects that creatively reframe the past to engage with urgent questions of the present and future.