The border between Canada and the United States is the world’s longest shared land boundary. Stretching 8,891 kilometres from Tsawwassen, British Columbia to Campobello, New Brunswick (including 2,475 kilometres shared with Alaska), this line travels between town sites and wilderness, and is visibly demarcated by a six-metre-wide swath of cleared land amongst the forest, and over 5,500 granite, steel, or concrete obelisks called ‘monuments’. There are a number of idiosyncrasies along this vast expanse of landscape that I have visited, including an unmanned US enclave where visitors need to report via telephone, a peace park with wreckage from the World Trade Center attack, and a cemetery that straddles the cutline. Along the way I have had numerous conversations with staff at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), RCMP, US Border Patrol, and I spoke with residents of various First Nations along this line, who identify more as being part of their own indigenous sovereign states.
Once referred to as ‘undefended’, my project Borderline undertakes a survey of this landscape monitored by subtle technologies, including improvised barriers, gates, X-ray scanners, and other forms of surveillance. Humans are discouraged from lingering in this territory, which is vast and arguably impossible to control.
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.