Fleisher Welcomes Leeway Artist-in-Residence Ada Trillo

Photographer Ada Trillo, whose documentary photographs provide a voice for the often voiceless, is the Leeway Foundation’s 2019-2020 Artist in Residence at Fleisher. Trillo will create a series of 20 portraits of people who have immigrated to South Philadelphia from Mexico and Central America. The portraits will be captured on 35mm film and developed and printed in Fleisher’s darkroom.

The residency is a continuation of the work she began through a Leeway Art and Change Grant in which she documented people living in safe houses along the United States/Mexico border. During her time at Fleisher, Trillo will facilitate three workshops on documentary photography and storytelling in a bilingual learning environment.

Trillo grew up in Juarez, Mexico, which at one time was called the most violent city in the world. Her photographs capture the cruelty and injustice of failed and inhumane immigration policies that continue to devastate migrants from Mexico and South and Central America. She regularly returns to the border, driven by her desire to tell the stories of the otherwise forgotten.

Trillo holds degrees from the Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Drexel University in Philadelphia.

From 2014 through 2017, she chronicled the tragic stories of sex workers living in the brothels of Juarez with a collection of photos entitled, How Did I Get Here? Many of these women were kidnapped by the cartels, while some were sold by their own families. Three images of these women (a photograph titled Coco and two others titled Dionisia) were acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for its permanent collection.

In early 2018, Trillio visited the “casas del migrante,” the shelters for deportees in towns on the Mexican side of the border. Later that year, she returned to Mexico to document La Bestia, known as “the death train,” the network of migrants who ride illegally on the top of freight trains throughout Mexico trying to reach the U.S. The photographs capture both the despair of deportation and the hope of those making the death-defying journey for a better life.

Through contacts she made with migrants who were later deported, she returned to the Mexico/Honduras border in late 2018 to travel nearly 3,000 miles with the Honduran migrant caravan from Chiapas to Tijuana, personally experiencing the brutal conditions they faced and witnessing the urgency that moved them forward. The stories she heard were far different from claims that the caravan was full of gang members, terrorists, and rapists. These were decent people struggling to reach safety for themselves and their families.

Trillo’s work has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions in the US and Europe. She regularly lectures on the topics of women’s issues and human trafficking in connection with her photography.

She has been profiled in major press outlets, including The Huffington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was awarded First Prize from the Da Vinci Art Alliance in 2019, Honorable Mention at the 2018 Monochrome Awards, the 2018 Silver Award from Passion from Freedom in London, the Silver Star for Editorial Documentary Photography at the 2018 Natural Density Awards and Best Series at the Black&White International Awards in Rome in 2017.

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