BORDERLINE

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Stretching 8,891 kilometers from Tsawwassen, British Columbia, to Campobello, New Brunswick (including 2,475 kilometers shared with Alaska), the Canada/U.S. border is the longest shared land border in the world. This line travels between town sites and wilderness; it is also visibly demarcated by a six-meter-wide swath of cleared land amongst the forest, and over 5,500 granite and steel, as well as concrete obelisks called “monuments.” While this border is often referred to as undefended, it is nonetheless heavily monitored under surveillance technologies.

Both the Canadian and U.S. governments utilize CCTV and thermal imaging cameras to scrutinize the border. Additionally, ground sensors are embedded under the roadways leading to dead ends, providing situational awareness for both the U.S. Border Patrol and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). My project Borderline features images of locations where official crossing points used to exist. Some of them are now barricaded, often in very primitive ways. At more remote locations, a no entry sign, rusted wire fence, or fallen tree is all that separates one country from the next.

While my images do not depict U.S. or Canadian border patrols, many of the photographs were taken shortly before or after the encounters with these officials. Often within a short period of my arrival at these locations, and occasionally, even prior to my arrival, a field unit would be dispatched to investigate. After the officials get to know my intent, they would move the vehicles out of my frame, so I could make the shot. However, this process is only part of what leads to the appearance of the border being so porous in my work. There are of course many places where I did not encounter anyone, where I could walk for hours along the denuded cutline that separates the two countries without impediment. Even though the security measures discourage humans from lingering at the Canada/U.S. border, they cannot fully control the vast territories of the borderlands.


Canadian Contraband is a print on demand publication consisting of a selection of images adopted from the official CBSA Facebook page. The images depict contraband that has been seized at various ports of entry across the country. The pictures are all made by amateur photographers (CBSA staff), yet many of these vernacular photographs are remarkably well composed. The images offer access to a world that only the official and the offender would otherwise be granted, providing a counterpoint to the meticulously composed large format landscape photographs made by my own camera. Stories pulled from the news reports are interjected between the photos, providing insight into the degree of depth that smugglers go, in order to pass illicit items between the two nations.