San Ysidro, CA - Arrest of Border Crossers
“Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”
|ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
The United States-Mexico border is a narrow strip where cultural differences between the two lands are blurred and an atmosphere of transience and crossings dominates. For the last twenty-five years Alex Webb has documented this rich, diverse and contentious border region. In this exhibition his complex and poignant images capture the humor, pathos, paradox, and tragedy of life in a place of perpetual flux, transience and volatility.
Photographing primarily in the streets, Webb vividly captures the physical, cultural, economic, and symbolic “crossings” or passages that continually blur the lines of demarcation between the two countries. The cross-migration and overlaying of peoples, ideas, beliefs, and systems within border zones is a subject that Webb has explored throughout his career. In Crossings, we see the same keen intelligence and critical awareness that he has brought to his extended studies of places like Haiti, Cuba, Turkey and Amazonia as well as the exquisite tension between form and content that has made his work so highly influential.
|The exhibition focuses on the border’s transitory inhabitants and the landscape they occupy. His initial fascination with the world of illegal border crossers has expanded to include many other kinds of crossings—cultural, economic, spiritual—such as Halloween festivities in Mexico, Charro celebrations in the U.S. and Mexican shoppers crossing the border for consumer items. Webb’s photographs explore this complex borderland through views of Mexican migrants and American tourists, desolate villages and sprawling border cities. He also focuses on the various forms of smuggling—drugs and people heading north, electronic goods and guns going south—that have come to define the border.|
This transnational region represents a global crossroads where some of the world's most contentious political, social, and economic issues emerge with stunning clarity and urgency. The question of how these challenges are negotiated has a profound impact not just on the U.S. and Mexico but also on the entire international community. Border towns, such as El Paso and Brownsville, TX, rely on cheap Mexican labor, legal and illegal, and Mexican shoppers. Communities on the Mexican side—Juarez, Matamoros, and Tijuana—are dependent on North American tourism and U.S.-owned manufacturing plants.
It is the borderland between these two countries that has come to fascinate Webb. The region is almost a country unto itself, dramatically divided by the Rio Grande and the border fence, and yet somehow cohering as one. On the Mexican side it is a world where dusty villages are transformed into red-light honky-tonk cities and into enormous factory zones where U.S. owned plants produce consumer products for the United States. On the U.S. side it is a world that is increasingly militarized and dominated by desolate wastelands and a massive metal fence, helicopters and border patrols.
The borderline of some 1,952 miles runs the gamut from invisible to aggressive and even violent. It is a unique location that marks a hemispheric division between so-called “industrialized” and “developing” countries, where people and goods as well as ideas and beliefs continually cross back and forth, with or without legal sanction. Webb’s body of work offers an indelible portrait of the complex, culturally rich land of the border.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Alex Webb is one of the world’s foremost photojournalists. His keen intelligence and long-term commitment to difficult subjects has yielded important projects on Florida, Haiti, and the Amazon Basin. Aware of the complexities of his subjects, Webb’s style is a unique hybrid that lies somewhere between street photography and photojournalism. But it is the mysterious, enigmatic, surreal, and quirky aspects of his work that distinguishes it from what one would more traditionally think of “photojournalistic” documentation of events or people. Rather than the photojournalist’s tendency to propose answers, Webb’s photography provokes more questions.
A member of the prestigious Magnum Photo Agency, Alex Webb's photographs are regularly published in the New York Times Magazine, Life, US News and World Report, Geo, Stern, National Geographic and Aperture. He has received numerous awards and fellowships and he has been exhibited around the world. He is the author of five highly acclaimed books, including Amazon: From the Floodplains to the Clouds (1997); From the Sunshine State: Photographs of Florida (1996); Under a Grudging Sun: Photographs from Haiti Libéré (1989); and Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds: Photographs from the Tropics (1986). Born in San Francisco, California in 1952, Webb majored in history and literature at Harvard University and studied photography at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. He has been a professional photographer since 1974.
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