Mexico City (AFP) – An exhibit of 44 striking images of the US-Mexican border taken by photographers for Agence France-Presse opened Friday in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, with the border itself as a backdrop.
The pictures were taken last year by three AFP photographers who spent 10 days traveling most of the nearly 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) border, documenting lives and landscapes on both sides of what has become one of the world’s most polemic frontiers.
Ten giant prints of their photos were displayed on the fence dividing Ciudad Juarez from El Paso, Texas, with the rest lining a pedestrian passage that links the two cities.
American national Jim Watson, who is based in Washington, traveled the US side of the border, while the Mexican side was covered by Salvadoran national Yuri Cortez — chief photographer at AFP’s Mexico City bureau — and Guillermo Arias, a Mexican based in Tijuana.
AFP launched the project shortly after US President Donald Trump took office vowing to build a massive border wall, following a campaign heavy on anti-Mexican rhetoric.
“There had been so much talk about the border and the wall, but very few people actually knew the border,” said Cortez ahead of the exhibition’s opening.
The goal of the project, he said, was to document the daily lives of people who live and work on the border.
The photos include shots of children playing near the border, but also traces of those who crossed it illegally.
“You can see the remains of campfires where (migrants) spent the night, clothing and shoes they lost. Also lots of crosses and altars where people died,” said Cortez.
Part of the project, said Watson, was to show that “there’s really no reason to have such big walls.”
The exhibition comes amid a new rise in tension between Mexico and the United States, after Trump ordered thousands of National Guard troops to the border as a caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the US.
The photos “send a message that people live together in a region like this. There are whole families that straddle the border,” said Ciudad Juarez Mayor Hector Armando Cabada.
“These walls don’t divide us. The only thing they do is unite us.”