Photograph by Anne McCormack
From Oxford American:
Page has been making annual trips to the Texas-Mexico borderlands since 2007, and one of her projects is walking along the river in search of objects people leave behind when they’re crossing. She photographs the items in situ, then brings them back to her studio in Chapel Hill to add everything to her “anti-archive,” which will eventually become an online searchable database. The last time she counted, she had collected nearly eight hundred objects, ranging from Bibles to pill bottles, combs, wallets, passports, clothing, and slips of paper scribbled with telephone numbers.
“The first one I found was a toothbrush. When I saw it, I just felt it in my whole body. I didn’t even know whether I should pick it up,” Page said. “It was a powerful remnant of that person’s life, and I felt it needed to be seen. That’s what the anti-archive is: the unofficial history of immigration. The one nobody wants to look at or deal with.”
Many of the archive’s contents were found right here in Hope Park, a leafy strip of green that slopes down to the Rio Grande. Standing on its bank, you are either a seven-minute walk to downtown Brownsville or a seven-minute wade to Matamoros. Long ago, the city built Hope Park to commemorate its close ties with Mexico. Tree-lined and bike-trailed, it would be beautiful were it not for the eighteen-foot steel wall cleaving through.
“They have painted it black to make it look better, because it’s rusting like a motherfucker,” said Clark, gripping a stake in his fist. In his mid-sixties, he has a regal gait and a beard straight out of Quixote. “It has two or three coats of paint on it, and it’s only three years old.”