|Gideon Bibles in Spanish published in Tennessee found in the trash at Customs and Border Protection Center in Why, Az. - (photo Tom Kiefer from the NYT)|
This is the work of Tom Kiefer, a case of the right person at the right place at the right time. My guess is he's a little bit of an oddball, moving from LA to the outskirts of Tuscon and taking a job as a janitor at a Border Detention Center because his photography gig wasn't quite working out. It's a beautiful story about someone who saw things going to waste. Remember I said he was a little oddball as in someone who has a habit of going through the trash.Most of us know someone like that who can't stand to throw anything away. He was so moved by what he saw began taking things home (a case of stealing government property even though it was trash) and cleaning, sorting and documenting his finds. Apparently he has warehouses of goods.He's produced a body of work, currently some 600 photos, called El Sueno Americano / The American Dream. What first might read like an experiment with Pinterest, upon closer inspection, reveals a writhing, painful, humanity of objects lost or confiscated from people crossing the border. And then there is the inhumanity. As in,why are we taking, from people who have presumably traveled hundreds or thousands of miles with very, very little, why are we taking the few possessions they might have, however humble? Why are we stripping them of their personal belongings? The anthropologist and artist in me has a deep feeling for material culture and what we can learn from it. I can't encourage you enough to explore his work. It's almost a miracle that we have this record.
Click here for his story and a selection of his work from the New York Times.
And here's another article and more images from the New Yorker