At the juncture of San Diego, California; and Tijuana, Mexico, the border wall’s rusting steel bars plunge into the sand, extending 300 feet into the Pacific Ocean, and casting a long and conflicting shadow.
“The Wall” is a documentary project about “Friendship Park,” a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border where families meet to share intimate moments through the metal fence that separates them.
Physical borders create symbolic boundaries that reinforce the rhetoric of “us versus them,” in which immigrants are seen as a threat to traditional narratives ingrained in various communities across America. The existence of these fences illustrates anti-immigrant sentiment, legitimizing exclusionary practices and justifying harsh government action. Once erected, they become enduring, permanent features of the geopolitical landscape and a powerful, aggressive reminder to immigrants that they don’t belong.
By calling attention to the human interactions at Friendship Park, where families visit and speak with one another through a metal fence, I attempt to neutralize what this wall was built to create — separation.
My goal is to transform the discourse of border security into a conversation about immigrant visibility, addressing audiences on both sides of the wall by challenging popular assumptions, or by reminding them that they are seen, heard and that they matter. I believe this work is especially meaningful now, given the current socio-political global context.
Griselda San Martin is a Spanish documentary photographer currently based in New York City. She is a graduate of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography (ICP) and holds a masters in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Throughout the past six years, San Martin has documented the U.S.-Mexico border, focusing on the issues of immigration, deportation, inequality and human rights abuses through an optic of identity and belonging.
Her current focus is on the growing Hispanic community in the United States and the sociopolitical implications of reactionary narratives depicting immigrants and ethnic minorities. Her work explores the transnational life and practices that link individuals, families and social networks across political boundaries.
San Martin’s work challenges popular assumptions about immigrants and offers an alternative perspective ― a marginalized community demonstrating resilience and resourcefulness amid trying situations.
Her photography and video projects have been exhibited internationally and featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, and California Sunday Magazine, as well as other publications.