Welcome to Dilley

Nominated by United Photo Industries

Supported by Black Box

Featuring Chris Gregory, Natalie Keyssar, Jake Naughton, and Alejandro Torres Viera

Dilley, Texas, best known at one point as the unofficial watermelon capital of the country —“come get a slice of the good life,” the slogan went — is a town of 4,000, an hour south of San Antonio. A sprawling, rural community in Southern Texas, its residents are currently enjoying the second oil boom in as many decades.

Fearing the inevitable downturn, last year administrators announced Dilley would be home to the South Texas Family Residential Center — or as its detractors call it, “baby jail,” — the largest immigrant detention center in the country. Built on a former man camp for oil workers, it houses 2,400 women and children, many of whom fled violence and persecution in Central America.

In addition to the thousands of asylum seekers, the center brought 600 jobs to Dilley. All over town low-paid workers in dead-end jobs eye the positions posted each Wednesday. In the Days Inn just off the highway, every week a new batch of lawyers and volunteers take up residence and head to the detention center to help gain release for the women and children housed inside.

Though the reality is wreathed in euphemism (guards are “resident supervisors,” and detainees live in neighborhoods named after cute animals), former detainees are quick to call the place a prison. And so, the town has gained notoriety across the country for an honor not quite as pleasantly banal as “a slice of the good life.”  Welcome to Dilley.

We are Black Box, a creative agency for visual documentary projects.

Borrowing from the experimental ethos of the laboratory, we merge the creative processes of photography and design to build immersive stories.

We operate at the intersection of design and content, but at our core we believe content always dictates form. With each of our projects, we aim to create the ideal object for sharing the story, whether it’s digital, analogue or something in between.

Black Box is Chris Gregory, Natalie Keyssar, Jake Naughton and Alejandro Torres Viera. Based in New York City we’re open to collaborating with all types of partners, so give us a shout.