Play: Before The Fence

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Feb. 1-Feb. 8, 2008

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Before the fence, Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, El Paso-Juarez – 1989

Notes from my Journal

Immigration. Swim, drive, and crawl. People do what they need to do and making them do any of the aforementioned things, put lives at risk.

The river is more than a highway of migration, though.

In the summers, when it’s hot, the river is a giant pool.

People play.

The river is polluted with chemicals from upstream pesticides from the farms, loaded with garbage and debris, has really tricky currents that, every summer, takes lives.

But people live in that river. That river is life for many in Juarez.

If the Jefes could see past their own little tight plans, this would be THE development that would be right for El Paso/Juarez: Play in the river.

Too simple, though, huh?

This girl is clinging to the El Paso side bank. ILLEGAL! La Migra comes and chases her away and she joyously splashes back to the Juarez side where her friends and family jeer and gesture at the Border patrolman. Everyone is having a good time. The Migra laughs, waves, knows he’s part of this great immigration farce, climbs back into his Suburban and drives off and the girl –and her friends- come back, swim to the U.S. side, pose for pictures, live the evening.

The sun sets. I go home. I played in the river, too.

One of the border Patrol’s favorite PR releases is about how their agents saved people from drowning. There’s one or two or three every year.

They never mention people caught playing. Before the fence.

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Roberta’s Glued Head

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2008

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Roberta’s glued head (Head #14), Las Cruces, NM, Jan. 18, 2008

You can leave the border but the border does not leave you. My head snapped when I saw Roberta Flores, up in New Mexico.

“Terrific hair,” I yelled at her. “Gelled,” I asked?

“No,” she said with a sly and proud smile, “Glued,” she shouted back, with a grin that sort of said, “gotcha!”

“Did you get that done around here? ” I asked.

“They don’t know how to do that around here,” she spat, friendly but gently ridiculing.

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Bull Boy

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Jan. 11-18, 2008

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Retratos de la Corrida, Bull boy, Juarez – 2002

I’m a little weary of border politics, for now.

I return to the streets and hope the disorder of life gives me shape and form.

Politics and News seem to work on a linear arc.

Facts. Information. Plenty to tell. Endless detail and weight and nuance. Narrative is interesting but one of the things I’ve always liked about doing photography is the occasional punch in the gut you get from just being somewhere (often where you shouldn’t be).

Photography can work as a fact machine, but when it doesn’t and it’s just image, impression, reaction, light, when there is more than the sum of the parts, I like it the most.

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Los Cartoneros

PHOTO(s) OF THE WEEK: Dec. 28, 2007-Jan. 4, 2008

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Cartonero Armando Hernandez Lamas, El Paso – 12/28/2007

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Cartonero Alejandro Gonzalez, El Paso – 12/28/2007

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Cartonero Hernandez in central El Paso

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Cartonero Gonzalez, central El Paso

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Armando Hernandez’ handmade tricicleta

Los Cartoneros

In a desert, on the border, nothing much gets wasted.

Cartoneros, paper haulers, collect discarded and surplus paper and card board from border streets and from border merchants and haul it on their customized ” tricicletas.” They then sell it to scrap buyers, located about a mile from the border shopping district in the Segundo barrio.

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Cameraphone session, 5:15pm, December 20, 2007 / Centro El Paso

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Dec. 21-28, 2007

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Cameraphone session, 5:15pm, December 20, 2007 / Centro El Paso

El Paso’s El Centro, the downtown, is packed with people at Christmastime. Unlike most cities of the southwest and of the rest of the United States, El Paso’s downtown is alive and bustling at all times of year, but especially during this season.

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Waiting in Juarez, 2007

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Dec. 7-Dec. 14, 2007

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Waiting in Juarez, 2007

Waiting.

It’s hard to remember the last time I was waiting for something and not pressured to be thinking about the next stop, the next appointment.

Leisure?

Barely remember that…

Slow time? Time seems to be on steroids, going faster and faster.

So I came across this guy and time seemed stopped. He was waiting for the grieving and the return of the dead to his vehicle.

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Tattoo, Juarez – 2007

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Nov. 30-Dec. 7, 2007

Tattoo, Juarez – 2007

Flying tattoo on the window. That’s what I was after. Beautiful.

What I got was the Universal Salute?

Priceless.

He didn’t like me? No, I don’t get that. I do struggle with why I shoot on the streets. What right do I have, who appointed me? There’s some kind of thing I got into my head about documenting and witnessing and leaving the artifact that has driven me for a long time. So I do.

I like the fact that the tattoo-ero sends something back. He’s got a right. We all do what we’ve got do.

So, I get my tattoo in Juarez.

It’s not always peace and love out there.

So be it. ‘Ta bien.

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Border Mass

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: November 3-9, 2007

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All Soul’s Day Mass at the border,

Sunland Park, NM/Anapra, Chihuahua

November 2, 2007

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All Soul’s Day, Border Mass, NM/Chihuahua border

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Nuns on both sides of border fence

Sunland Park, New Mexico/Anapra, Mexico

Today the Bishops of El Paso, Las Cruces, NM and Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico met at the border fence at Sunland Park, NM and Anapra, Chihuahua to protest current immigration policies and to promote understanding for immigrants from Mexico, as well as world wide.

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Viva Los Viejos

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: JUNE 15-22, 2007

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Dignified man at the crossroads , El Paso, Texas / 2007

A man stands in the last light of the day at the corner of 6th and El Paso Street in El Paso, Texas. This is the first street of the United States after entering the U.S. from Mexico from the Paso Del Norte International Bridge. The bridge links Ciudad Juarez with El Paso and 6th and El Paso streets could be considered the crossroads of the northern part of the Western Hemisphere from south to north.

A lot of old folks (viejos) grew up in this barrio and are still there. They are the dignity of the barrio.

Imagine how people felt when a picture of an old viejo was used, by City planners, to show what was wrong with El Paso?

Los Viejos are what’s right with El Segundo.

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