Glasshouse of New Americans

Featuring: Jill Enfield

I initiated the Glasshouse of New Americans project to explore the new immigrant experience, specifically people that decided to come to the USA from the 1960’s onward. They had the bravery needed to pick up and leave one’s homeland no matter what period of time.

Although current modes of transportation have improved, immigrating remains filled with challenges. My goal was to communicate concepts of heritage and immigrant hardship into tangible forms by utilizing a process from another period of time when other new immigrants were also being photographically documented.

A three-dimensional glass house was made from old windows, their distressed exteriors echoing the hardship of what it means to be an immigrant. The structure shares the ghost-like fragility of the glass panels that support the portraits I made using wet-plate collodion, a 150 year-old photographic technique. The use of collodion technique represents the precarious nature of the immigration process itself.

The old adage “those in glass houses should not throw stones” resonates once one looks into the eyes of the New Americans to realize that we are all immigrants. It is this understanding and awareness of heritage and personal history that is key to a more empathetic and compassionate future.

this ever evolving diversity challenges the idea of a single dominant vision of the American identity, encouraging Americans to embrace inclusion and pluralism.” – Ellis Island Museum, New York City.


Jill Enfield is a fine art photographer, educator, curator and author. Her concentration is historical techniques and alternative processes, with annual workshops and lectures in locations around the world.

Her two books: Photo Imaging: A Complete Guide To Alternative Processes was published by Watson-Guptill in 2002 and Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes: Popular Historical and Contemporary Techniques was published by Focal Press in 2013, both are both award winning works and used in schools all over the world. Jill’s third book has a 2019 publication date by Focal Press. Like the others, it will include step-by-step instructions on a variety of historical and alternative process techniques.

Jill’s work has also been chosen to be on book covers as well as magazines and websites. She has shown her work throughout the USA and Europe and recently had a three month solo show where her Glasshouses of New Americans installation was exhibited at Photoville NYC which was covered in The New York Times..

A 3-minute project concept video, Jill Enfield Ellis Island Installation, is available on YouTube.

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