Italian American Collection: Putting Faces to Names: Exploring Italian American Identity with Photo IDs


We are all familiar with photo identifcation and the frontal gaze of offcial portraits—so familiar we do not think about them beyond wishing we had smiled or done our hair differently before our trip to the DMV. They are the mundane, but necessary, contents of our wallets. Looking at these collection photos gives a human face to the immigration process, allowing us to see people amid big life changes. Photo IDs are now synonymous with citizenship and nationality—an individual’s symbolic belonging to a place—but that has not always been the case.

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