Alien Archives

Alien Archives

Jose Pareja, 2024 Finalist

“Alien Archives” is an archival research project concerned with the violent gaze of the state towards immigrants. Through layers of historic and contemporary images, it questions the systemic violence bred by the immigration apparatus and the price that families pay — at what cost?
  1. Postcard of workers from the “Bracero program,” Cir. 1940. Superimposed over a page from the United States Public Health Service’s “Manual of the mental examination of aliens,” 1918, a guide for the inspection of immigrants in the US ports of entry.
  1. Underage immigrants graded imbeciles by the examination manual of Ellis Island, NY 1918.
  1. Images from the “Bracero program.” In both, men are aligned for inspection.


  1. Above, a recent image from the archive of the Department of Homeland Security. Below, surveillance footage from Customs and Border Protection detention rooms, superimposed over a page from the “Manual of the mental examination of aliens,” 1918.
  1. During the program Braceros, workers were stripped from clothes and were deloused before entering the USA.
  1. Above, a detention room at Angel Island. Below, a present ICE detention center. Superimposed over a page from the United States Public Health Service’s “Manual of the mental examination of aliens,” 1918.
  1. A group of immigrants, suspected of having mental deficiencies. Ellis Island, NY. Cir. 1920.
  1. Underage Asian immigrants being inspected at Angel Island, CA.
  1. The hospital and autopsy room at Ellis Island, NY.
Photographer's Statement: 

In the tapestry of American narratives, the concept of The "American Dream" has been interwoven into the collective consciousness through pop culture and entertainment narratives. However, this portrayal has long excluded the immigrant experience, especially that of “illegal aliens”.

In direct contrast to the picturesque family futures associated with class, wealth and freedom, the immigrant experience is one of struggle, survival, and resilience.

Through archival investigation and intervention, Alien Archives delves into a silent experience that has been overlooked for too long.

It's about us, our colonial history, the racism we've inherited and the violence that has become a part of our society.

Where does this gaze reside? 

Is it tucked away in some distant repository or does it linger in the present, mirrored and shared by its citizens?

Mixing state documents, recent portraits, digital screenshots and historic material, Alien Archives questions the structures of power and the foundations of the conversation: the discourse; who speaks, who is silent; what is said and why; what is omitted, silenced, concealed; and what was left outside of the frame.

Alien Archives seeks to engage in dialogue with these and other critical questions, drawing connections between historical injustices and contemporary struggles.

Jose Pareja
JosePareja's picture

Jose Pareja is a conceptual documentary photographer and researcher from Margarita, Venezuela. He questions the documentary genre and the archive as tools of power.

After graduating high school, he lived in France, Spain, India, Nepal, Thailand, Turkey and Iran. He returned to his homeland to document Venezuela’s protests and uprisings. He worked for El Tambor VE as a staff photojournalist, and as a freelancer for wire agencies. He studied Photography in Roberto Mata School of Photography in Caracas, Venezuela and Creative Writing at Universidad Metropolitana until he fled the country in 2018. He moved to the US and worked as a construction worker, truck driver, server, lighting and camera technician during his immigration process. He became a Transpersonal Coach, under the mentorship of therapist and scholar Carola Castillo where he was trained in psychology and trauma. He has taken workshops with artists such as: Chien Chi Chiang, Paz Encina, Debi Cornwall, Fred Ritchin, Alexey Yurenev, among others.. He is the recipient of the Director's Fellowship Grant at the ICP to study Documentary Practices and Visual Journalism. He was selected to participate in the New York Times Portfolio Review 2023. He attended the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2023. He is currently working at the NYC Asylum Application Help Center in New York City assisting immigrant families to navigate the US legal system and is a part of the BRIC Intensive Documentary Cohort 2024 to produce a documentary short film on US Immigration and the violent representation of immigrants in American media.