“The stretch between Tijuana and San Diego is long. Very long. And it is as treacherous as it is beautiful. It is unlikely that anybody who has ever crossed it will easily forget it. Its desert like landscape is bound to carve itself equally onto body and soul.”
― José Ángel Navejas
Between 1983 and 1987, American photographer Ken Light accompanied the US Border Patrol on their nightly search for migrants trying to cross the border from Mexico into California. Armed with a Hasselblad camera and a flashlight, Light was there when the immigrants were captured and their dangerous journey into a better life came to an abrupt end. The black-and-white images show people lying face-down on the ground, hiding in bushes, huddled together in groups, cramped into the trunk of a car. Some look directly at Light’s camera, others don’t seem to notice, but there is not one happy face in these pictures. With the artificial beam from his flash, Light captured the moments in which these people’s dreams ended. Visually evoking either Weegee or impromptu mug shots, Light’s series captures with haunting immediacy the terror, despair, struggle and reality along the US-Mexican border.
In a longer essay (included in Spanish and English) at the beginning of the book, author José Ángel Navejas offers a much-needed counterbalance with his first-hand account from a migrant’s point of view.
For more information regarding the series, its impact, and the complexities of the artist-subject power relations, we recommend Ken Light’s interview with GUP Magazine.