30 Years on The U.S./Mexico Border - Then and Now on Exhibit
In September 2018 I delivered four framed diptychs that will be on permanent exhibition at the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector Headquarters in Chula Vista, California.
16x20 black and white prints show scenes I photographed on the Tijuana/San Diego border in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Each of them are paired with a color print of the same perspective in 2018.
Rodney Scott (right) the Chief Patrol Agent for the S.D. Sector embraced my “then and now” photography project. He assigned young Matthew Dyman from his office to help me. We prowled the borderlands on 6 different days in an all-wheel-drive truck. Matthew was interested in learning about the border I once photographed when he was just a child. He was patient and respectful when I lingered for the light to change. We even went back numerous times to the same locations to make the “now” line up more accurately with the “then”.
My 1988 photograph (above left) of The Soccer Field shows scores of migrants gathered in a circle to hear Padre Flor Rigoni celebrate his weekly outdoor mass. His alter was a crucifix on a folding table. The borderline was imperfectly marked by a dirt path running diagonally across the upper half of the photo. 30 years later a rusty steel fence defines the official border where the dirt path was and a second fence topped with concertina wire sits on 20 ft. of fill dirt that now covers Rigoni’s temporary altar.
Here in the Tijuana River Valley I brought along a copy of my 1992 photo showing people wading through the shallow, sewage-filled river. It helped me locate objects such as cracks in the concrete levee, fences, light poles, and the horizon topography. As expected by 2018 fences had been altered, silt and weeds covered the bottom edge of the levee and new light poles were added but there was enough to confirm that I was standing exactly where I was in 1992. And I caught my imagination seeing the ghosts of an earlier decade.
Thirty years after my intense documentation not much is the same in the San Diego Sector. Nearly every location along the fence line is barricaded or guarded by patrol agents. Nothing moves without detection or interdiction.
- Don Bartletti, 11/2018