Surreal photos show walls dividing U.S. and Mexico

A photographer captures scenes along the controversial boundary where politics, culture, and nature intersect.

A steel wall slices through farmland in Brownsville, Texas, north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Built inland of the actual border—the Rio Grande—it comes to an abrupt end, making it easy to circumvent on foot.
Photograph by Richard Misrach

I have been working in the American Southwest for nearly 40 years. In 2004 I came across something I hadn’t seen before: a blue barrel with a plain blue flag on a pole, with “agua” written on the side and several gallons of water inside. I photographed it because it was so unexpected, and it haunted me.

In 2009—as I became aware of an increase in the building of walls and surveillance towers and other government activities along the 1,954-mile-long U.S. border with Mexico—I began photographing in earnest. That’s also when I discovered that the original barrel was a water station placed by a humanitarian group to help prevent the dehydration and death of migrants crossing the border.

The way I have always worked is by focusing on the landscape. Rarely do my images represent people, yet their passage is always felt. The presence of absence.

Read This Next

Why kids need their own COVID-19 vaccine trials

A black-footed ferret has been cloned, a first for a U.S. endangered species

3-ton parts of Stonehenge may have been carried from earlier monuments

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet