The 1.4 square mile town of Clarkston, Georgia is home to 13,000 residents, nearly half of whom were foreign-born. Since 1992, the small town has received over 40,000 refugees from all over the world. Past years Liberians, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Somalis, Bhutanese, Eritreans, and Vietnamese have resettled there, while Congolese and Syrians make up the most recent refugee wave.
In autumn of 2015, Jessie began documenting a newly arrived refugee family from Afghanistan. Before coming to America, the father of the family, Hekmatullah, worked as a journalist in radio and television for 25 years—including five years for Deutsche Welle Radio, Germany’s international broadcaster. He brought his family to America because of increasing threats due to his work with and support of the US Army. Over the last two years he's struggled to provide for his 9-member family, as gainful employment has been seemingly impossible to find.
The following autumn after meeting Hekmatullah’s family, Jessie began documenting a burgeoning friendship between two families—one Syrian, and the other American. The two families still live as neighbors at a small Clarkston apartment complex. Their relationship, and hopefully the accompanying images, challenge the notion of refugee assimilation as well as unexpected camaraderie across hard cultural lines.
Other images of Clarkston were shot on assignment for The Guardian to accompany an piece on Clarkston, Georgia written by Katy Long. You can find it here.