Martha's Vineyard portrait of displaced immigrants recognized among Boston's 'pictures of the year'

When 50 Venezuelan immigrants were unexpectedly flown to Martha's Vineyard from Texas last fall, photographer Jesse Costa and reporter Simón Rios weren't far behind. The pair captured the unfolding crisis — and the humans it brought together — at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown.

Costa's portrait of a young couple's embrace on the parish porch is among the Boston Press Photographers Association's 2022 Pictures of the Year in the Spot News category.

"I was expecting there to be confusion, maybe a little mayhem and disorganization," Costa remembers of his Vineyard arrival. "It was the complete opposite. Migrants were playing soccer in the street, and they were speaking and laughing with residents who were there to show their support with donations and supplies."

Island residents had mobilized to welcome the displaced group and offer comfort after their journey north. The immigrants had agreed to flights after they were reportedly coerced with the promise of delivery to a sanctuary district. When they arrived, to the surprise of local officials, the alleged deceit revealed itself.

"Many of them were thousands of miles away from where they needed to be for their asylum hearings and were wondering how they were going to get there," says Costa. "I'm sure that weighed heavily on their minds."

The young couple featured in Costa's honored photograph — one of them hunched and obviously distraught and the other leaning in to caress them — embody the complexity and uncertainty of the moment. From his vantage point at the edge of the crowd, Costa spotted the duo and moved quickly to preserve their exchange in his snapshot.

"Photography is a core part of our visual, digital journalism mission at WBUR," says Tiffany Campbell, executive editor for digital. "Jesse was able to capture a powerful moment amid a challenging and chaotic news story, leveraging his years of experience, his sharp eye and ability to respond and react during breaking news."

And it was more than a singular moment in time. Costa, Rios and their colleagues reported from and on Edgartown as the crisis developed.

"WBUR stuck with the story for months, long after national media had moved on, with contributions from across the newsroom," adds Dan Mauzy, executive editor for news at WBUR.


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