Location: Ajo, AZ, United States
Imagine you’ve come across a rosary, a group of family photographs, a personal diary in a trash can, knowing these items were not willingly thrown away. What would you do? It was at the intersections of shock, disbelief, ethics and morality that I came into contact with the personal items carried by migrants and those seeking asylum and where I chose to recover thousands of personal belongings and photographically document these deeply personal items.
Working part-time as a janitor starting in 2003, I had requested permission to retrieve food carried by migrants and asylum-seekers from the trash bins at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Processing facility in Why, Arizona to bring to our local food bank when I found bibles, belts, billfolds, spare clothing, socks, shoes and other personal items. I would drop off the food after my shift, but individual items I brought home, believing the personal, sometimes intimate and cherished nature of these pieces demanded photographic documentation. This process occurred from 2007 through 2014, at which time I resigned from my janitor position and steady paycheck to dedicate all my time and resources to the process of documenting the personal items appropriated from these people. As I continue photographing this immense archive of confiscated belongings of those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to seek safety and pursue their hope of the American Dream it is impossible to separate the people living here who place their own lives at risk providing essential services to keep our country going, it is compounded with the fact of constant fear and terror knowing that ICE could come knocking on the door and tear apart their family. It is also impossible to separate and not think of our fellow citizens who live in fear not because of their citizenship but because of the color of their skin.
Collective or Agency Redux Pictures