Francisco Mata Rosas presents a transmedia project showing the different perspectives lived in this cultural and iconic geographical spot.
Leslie is a deported woman living in the under the sewage known as “El Bordo” near the border crossing of San Ysidro in Tijuana. This place has become a shelter for about three thousand deportees who, after being sent back from the US with no money or home to go to, have had to settle in the worst living conditions imaginable in this place where filth, violence, insecurity, and drugs reign. That’s the case of Leslie, a woman who had no one to turn to when she was deported and who makes a living by distributing drugs in the area, drugs that of course she’s also addicted to.
That’s one case on the west side of the border. On the east, a man who decided not to mention his name tells his story of how, after living for twelve years in California, was caught and deported for running a stop sign. Instead of just making him cross the border, he was sent to Tamaulipas, the other side of the Mexican border following a deportation scheme in “X” where people are deported by crossing them from one coast to the other so that they don’t go back that easily. He didn’t know anyone nor had any money with him to even to call a lawyer or his family. Now he’s trying to figure out what to do in a country he was born but that he doesn’t even recognize today.
These are only a few stories of the thousands that the renowned Mexican photographer, Francisco Mata Rosas, picked up during the realization of his series La línea (The Line). This project, that took him about eight years to conclude, captures the essence of the many social, political, historical, cultural, and environmental issues of this important geographical spot and presents them through a very particular aesthetic that manages to move the viewer in indescribable ways. To know more about the series, I got in touch with Mata to talk about what moved him and the importance of this series in such problematic times.
Just as the historircal and social realities of this spot are as diverse and complex, the project had to follow that nature.
“I wanted the experience of sharing what I saw, where I was, what I felt, and what I thought, to exceed the probabilities that brings traditional photography as an object of passive contemplation into the table. I want to generate a discourse through different platforms that provides more reading layers than the image itself.”
The best way to actually achieve it was to conceive through different formats to present all those different narratives and perspectives.
“I’ve been working on this series more as a transmedia project than as a traditional photographic essay. I play with different platforms, I combine them, I hybridize them. I merge languages and narratives by using any gadgets or tools available.”
In that way, by combining digital and analog photography, video documentary, drones, gifs, voice recordings, collage techniques, among others, the project ends up being a very accurate metaphor of the different voices, experiences, and perspectives lived throughout the nearly 2,000 miles of distance.
“I’ve mostly stayed and talked a lot with some of these displaced people, a term that throughout the border acquires a polysemic value since they’ve been displaced so many times ,and in so many ways, throughout their lives. Their words and points of view have helped me a lot to understand this place, to build my own images, and to elaborate metaphors on the diverse ways of living in the border.”
At the same time, La linea wants to portray all the violence, both literal and the invisible one, thousands experience every day.
“Through images containing all sorts of violence I try to meditate about it, reflect on its causes, the social, cultural, and psychological implications it has. […] I want these images to create an atemporal atmosphere that pushes us to take a stand and question our role in this. I don’t want them to make us insensitive beings accustomed to the horrors we see every day on the media. […] So, through these images I make visible this culture of violence, the many feminicides, and all sorts of inequality.”
So, what’s the relevance of this work in such an important moment in the history of the border?
“This political conjuncture we’re experiencing now that Donald Trump is the president of the US, bestows this series/essay/research a very interesting effectiveness. The border has been highly documented through the passing of time. […] I didn’t want to make a documentary of the region, nor do I want to give a journalistic or testimonial perspective. I wanted to show my journey, my findings, my encounters, my thoughts, my opinions. To show my own point of view regarding this peculiar and highly stereotyped region.”
At the end of the day, Francisco Mata Rosas’ La línea becomes an exploration of an absent, and yet existent form of violence exacerbated by injustice, economic inequality, an intensifying struggle for political power, racism, and classism framed by a unique and contrasting landscape that’s been in constant transformation with the passing of time. It becomes a project that wants to share not only one story nor one reality, but the diversity of voices and experiences that share so little in personal terms but at the same time a similar cultural, historical, and social reality and baggage.
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