Copyright 2015 David Taylor
Photographer: David Taylor (resides Tucson, Arizona)
Publisher: Radius Books (Santa Fe)
Essays: Claire C. Carter, Daniel D. Arreola, William L. Fox, Rebecca Senf (interview)
Text: English, Spanish
Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, Document section (essay, maps, articles, Plate details), printed in Verona, Italy
Photobook designer: David Chickey, David Taylor
Notes: This photobook is an investigation of the borderland straddled by the United States on one side, Mexico the other that extends the 690 miles between the two El Paso/Juarez and Tijuana/San Diego. Marking that transition point are 276 boundary obelisks, with 52 constructed initially of stone (1883) standing 11 feet high then later 224 additiaonl were fabricated of iron (1891-1895) and slightly smaller at 6 and a half feet tall. Taylor has photographed these boundary Monuments in a documentary and visually objective style, similar in idea to that of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typologies. His photographic project was initiated in 2007, well before this borderland became a contested subject in the recent American presidential election and a book that probably has not been viewed in its entirety by the president-elect. This photobook project is essentially an expansion on Taylor’s 2008 Guggenheim fellowship that resulted in his earlier photobook, Working The Line, also published by Radius Books.
This is a obsessive investigation, as he has stated “the obelisks have ended up familiar figures invested with enormous meaning for me“. Each of the 276 boundary markers rests within an urban or rural landscape relative to the two respective countries. His photographs of the urban marker landscape provides a sharp visual contrast to the lives on either side of the borderland. The urban markers these are usually adjacent to a high fence or barrier to impede (or control) clandestine foot traffic. The urban photographs are in sharp contrast to the rural markers found in the mountains and large expanses of the desert, as these lonely markers provide the only evidence that a man-designated boundary occurs.
In terms of current social-political discussions about borders, especially as one contemplates the lonely markers high in the mountains or in the open desert, these photographs beg the question about what does a border really means? Is a location/site more “American” or more “Mexican” ten feet, or even one thousand feet, on either side of the marker?
This is a large and thick volume, beautifully designed and printed, which results in a book object that is a pleasure to read.
Note: As one of the photobook judges earlier this year for Photo Book Independent, I had juried Taylor’s Monuments submission into the competition’s photobook exhibition.