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Calexico
02_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
The All American
Calipatria Prison
Rick
Tilapia, North Shore
13_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Marie
Geographic
Jack
10_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Athan James
Tugboat Willy
Mecca
Imperial Fault
05_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
16_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
17_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Martin & Ronda
18_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Wa's Place
Signal Mountain
Charlie's Place (East Jesus)
Dorothy
Linda
untitled
Leonard and his Ark
28_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Kim, Jordan & Nathan
New Years Day, Niland.
Tony the Vet
New Gold
untitled
32.jpg

Calexico

The All American Canal meanders along the border for about 80 miles before reaching the spot I chose to watch the extraordinary pre-dawn light. I’ve paused to make a picture while searching for it's end; which is somewhere west of Calexico where channels deliver water deep into Imperial County farmland.

Nearby there is a bridge, and next to it a line of tires bolted together and attached to a chain; an apparatus used to smooth out the fine gravel of the road that runs alongside the canal so that new footprints can be seen by the Border Patrol. A man in a small pickup truck nods as he passes, then circles back to where he came from, only to return again a little while later. He is looking for someone, perhaps a solo (migrant) or a sign from a coyote (human smuggler) on the other side of the water. For the next few minutes I scramble to record the massive Rorschach test created by the scattered clouds against the rising sun.

With wages 10 times higher on the north side of the canal than the south, the draw to migrate is powerful, and along with bringing life to the southern California desert, the All American also brings death. Later in the day I would learn about the frequent drownings of people trying to enter the US by swimming the canal, and of their burial in a paupers cemetery 20 miles north of the border.

There is also a southern migration whose paths lead to Imperial; a migration of middle class explorers, retired pensioners, hippies, dreamers and rubber-punks. Much of my work in Imperial has been focused on a small, improvised community they’ve created, and on its relationship to the surrounding area. I was drawn there by curiosity about the kinds of psychological spaces and physical geographies people navigate to create a sense of place, value and community while living in such a difficult landscape. 
   

The All American


Calipatria Prison

Rick

Tilapia, North Shore

Marie

Geographic

Jack

Athan James

Tugboat Willy

Mecca

Imperial Fault

Martin & Ronda

Wa's Place

Signal Mountain

Charlie's Place (East Jesus)

Dorothy

Linda

untitled

Leonard and his Ark

Kim, Jordan & Nathan

New Years Day, Niland.

Tony the Vet

New Gold

untitled

Calexico
02_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
The All American
Calipatria Prison
Rick
Tilapia, North Shore
13_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Marie
Geographic
Jack
10_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Athan James
Tugboat Willy
Mecca
Imperial Fault
05_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
16_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
17_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Martin & Ronda
18_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Wa's Place
Signal Mountain
Charlie's Place (East Jesus)
Dorothy
Linda
untitled
Leonard and his Ark
28_MattGainer_Imperial.jpg
Kim, Jordan & Nathan
New Years Day, Niland.
Tony the Vet
New Gold
untitled
32.jpg