"A World Separated by Borders" is sponsored by Agri Packing Supply, Consulate of Mexico in Tucson, Gobierno del Estado de Sonora, Jumex, Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucsón, The Offshore Group, and Tucson Mexico Sister Cities.
Mexican photographer Alejandra Platt-Torres shares her powerful images of the people, the border and the landscape between Arizona and Sonora in a new exhibit at the Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus.
"A World Separated by Borders" runs March 8 through Oct. 19. The show is co-presented by the UA's Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.
Through 21 compelling, black-and-white photographs, "A World Separated by Borders" explores the humanity, the economies and the circumstances that both unite and divide the people of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.
"Alejandra captures the raw, unscripted reality that migrants face each day as they leave behind all that is familiar to them and cross dangerous terrain in search of economic security," said Michael Brescia, historian and head of public programs at the museum. "The photographs touch a chord with a us because, at first glance, they seem to reveal the drama of Mexican immigration to the United States; after thoughtful reflection, however, we realize just how routine and matter-of-fact the dangers and uncertainties are for those who are compelled to cross.”
Focusing on five themes, the exhibit represents more than four years of the photographer’s documentation of the Arizona-Sonora border beginning just after Sept. 11, 2001. The themes are: the diversity of immigrants, the perilous journey through the desert, human repatriation, the history of the border and the ecological impact of immigration.
In addition to 21 framed photographs, the show features a multi-media installation with more than 60 additional images, and, lining the museum's front walkway from University Boulevard to the main entrance, an outdoor installation of photographs depicting material culture left in the desert by migrants, such as clothing, water bottles, food containers or personal hygiene items.
Professional photographer Platt-Torres divides her time between two homes in Hermosillo, Sonora and Tucson.
"I am a migrant," she explains, "I am the third generation in a family of migrants. My great grandfather, Frederick Platt, was born in New York City. For me, coming and going between the United States and Mexico is normal. Since I was a child, I've been crossing the border with my family, regularly coming back and forth to visit relatives and to go shopping. There is no border in my world. But when I realized that that is not the norm for everyone, I wanted to get involved. It seemed that everything got worse after Sept. 11, 2001. The American reaction to the attacks and the weakening Mexican economy combined, in my opinion, to create the current political stalemate. Among the real consequences are the human casualties. They are why I am doing this project."
Margaret Regan, journalist and author of the critically acclaimed book, "The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands," is guest curator working with the museum's exhibit team on this project. As a journalist, Regan has documened for years the economic, political and historical factors that have contributed to the human tragedies at our shared border with Mexico.
"Margaret has witnessed the many sides of human migration through the Arizona-Sonora borderlands," Brescia said. "She handles the heated polemic that has become Mexican immigration to the United States with sensitivity and fairness."
As guest curator, Regan helped select the photographs, develop the exhibit story and contextualize the images.
After showing at the Arizona State Mudeuem, "A World Separated by Borders" will be available to travel to other venues across the country and across the border.
Of the collaboration, Javier Duran, director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry, said, "We are delighted to be collaborating with the Arizona State Museum on a multi-dimensional exhibit that creates a conversation about the peoples, the cultures and the issues across the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the borders of two countries."
"Alejandra Platt-Torres is one of the most accomplished photographers of contemporary Mexico," Duran continued. "An acute transnational observer of border dynamics, Alejandra's stunning black and white photos evoke the strength, the struggles and the sorrows of the migrant people and reflect the lives of those who made it across and those who didn't. Her work captures the human condition at many different levels."