What We Saw Photographing the Migrant Caravan and the U.S.-Mexico Border / Opinion; Three Veteran Photographers Reflect on Their Experiences Photographing the Many Stories from the Southern Border in 2018 and Provide Some Insight into Their Images

By Platt, Spencer; Moore, John et al. | Newsweek, February 8, 2019 | Go to article overview

What We Saw Photographing the Migrant Caravan and the U.S.-Mexico Border / Opinion; Three Veteran Photographers Reflect on Their Experiences Photographing the Many Stories from the Southern Border in 2018 and Provide Some Insight into Their Images


Platt, Spencer, Moore, John, Tama, Mario, Newsweek


Byline: Spencer Platt, John Moore and Mario Tama

From families being separated over the summer to border patrol agents firing tear gas at migrants in Tijuana several weeks ago, conflicts and conversations surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border dominated headlines throughout 2018.

Though many of us are hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the border, photography provides a portal into world events that would otherwise be less accessible to the broader public.

Three Getty Images photographers--John Moore, Spencer Platt and Mario Tama--have spent weeks documenting various touchpoints of the immigration crisis in 2018, from the migrant caravan in southern Mexico to the crossings in border towns. Below, these three veteran photographers reflect on their experiences photographing the many stories from the southern border in 2018 and provide some insight into their images.

President Donald Trump's immigration policies have made the issues at the border more politicized than ever before. Did those policies increase tension at the border? How palpable was that tension?

Moore: The policies and rhetoric stemming from the White House were harsher this year, in line with the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

Tension in U.S. border agencies is probably higher because they are enforcing existing law in different ways than before, especially when children were controversially separated from their families during the spring of 2018.

We've also seen a drastic rise in the number of families from Central America fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries to seek political asylum in the U.S. They were already anxious when they set out on their long journey to the United States and when they left their home countries, many had no idea that U.S. policies had changed. There is a lot of conjecture about the lack of context in media in 2018, but you all take pride in providing context in your images. As photojournalists, what do you see as the importance of context when covering immigration in this current media climate? Platt: As a photojournalist, we are put in situations with a lot of moving pieces and where everything happens very fast. We snap hundreds of images and try to anticipate the frame in order to capture the best picture.

When I was in Southern Mexico covering the caravan, I was extremely aware of the hyper-partisan nature of this issue and how media coverage was being used to stoke fear in the run up to the midterm elections. So, while it was important to document the scope of the caravan and show the amount of people embarking on that journey, it was equally important to highlight the struggle of the individual. Tama: The photographs we take are never seen in a vacuum and the viewer looks at each image through the filter of their own personal perspective. We did our best this year to objectively illustrate the complex set of immigration issues on both sides of the border.

Beyond caravans and patrols, we documented migrants waiting to seek asylum at the border, ICE arrests, deported veterans, the reunification of families, anti-immigration protesters, Mexican farm workers and U.S. citizenship ceremonies. Spencer and Mario, you have both covered wars in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine as well as the aftermath of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. But this year was your first experience covering immigration in Mexico and border towns in the United States. Describe some of the unique challenges that the migrants face? Platt: I was essentially parachuting into Southern Mexico--a place I had never been before--to cover the migrant caravan for about 10 days. Before flying into Oaxaca, I did a ton of research in order to prepare myself and devise a plan that would put me in a position to cover the issue appropriately. …

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