When we traveled 10,000 miles to see for ourselves every inch of the U.S.-Mexico border it was the spring of 2017. The post-election climate had presented a stark new context for looking at cultural and political difference in the United States — and so many of these fragmenting narratives had found expression in the border wall debate.
At the same time, very little seemed to be understood about the borderlands as a place, space, society or culture. We set out expecting to find residents there who were fundamentally vexed by the relationship between the United States and Mexico; between immigrant, indigenous, and Caucasian communities; and between border inhabitants and undocumented migrants. Instead, we found the opposite — and heard perspectives largely left unvoiced.
Through an amalgam of portraiture and topographical studies of border security infrastructure, American Backyard looks at the reality of life on the border. Various cultural and political processes, which may be ambiguous elsewhere in the country, are amplified here. In an environment where the movement of both people and goods are vigilantly regulated, examined, and controlled—and where federal laws regularly don’t apply—questions of social injustice and discrimination are matters of resounding consequence.
In many ways a crucible, the border issue brought into focus the processes and ideals that bind this country together, as well as those that divide it. Beyond talk of "The Wall," we found a larger, less transparent story about our southern borderlands to do with acculturation, creolization, surveillance, inequality, diversity and compassion.
Early drafts of American Backyard have been featured in TIME Magazine and Vice. The full story will be told in a book complete with 120 photographs and 7 separate essays covering the length of the border, from the Gulf of Mexico to San Diego.
The book, which will be 144 pages in length, will be printed in Europe by Gnomic Book's network of skilled craftsmen, on materials chosen to evoke the subject matter of our militarized border. Renowned architect and cartographer Thomas Paturet will design the four maps that describe the path of the journey.
About the Creators
Elliot Ross is a Colorado based photographer. Born in Taipei, Taiwan (1990), his interest for the photographic medium, rural frontiers and underserved communities developed during his upbringing on a homestead in the Colorado high-plains. In NYC, he trained as an assistant under Annie Leibovitz and Mark Seliger for a number of years. Ross’s work is invested in the effects of isolation on communities and the divisive, emotional nature of geopolitical borders including ongoing work in the U.S. / Mexico borderlands. His work has been internationally shown and published, with notable appearances in National Geographic Magazine, Time, Vice and The Atlantic.
Genevieve Allison is a writer and artist whose work focuses on the intersection of issues concerning environment, land use, community, art, and politics. She has an MFA from The University of Auckland, New Zealand, and has exhibited internationally alongside artists such as Gerhard Richter and Katharina Grosse. In New York City, she worked in art book publishing at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and contributed to projects for Rizzoli and Paul Chan's imprint Badlands Unlimited. In addition to her work as art journalist and critic for Artforum and Aperture, her writing appears in notable publications such as Time, Vice and The Collective Quarterly.
Risks and challenges
Any printing project carries some level of risk; however, this will be Gnomic Book's tenth project, having spent three years building relationships in the printing community. At this point the only risks that we encounter are ones of timing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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