To photograph the hundreds of undocumented migrants crossing the United States across the dangerous border with Mexico, John Moore used special techniques.
One of them, says the photographer, is to negotiate with private landowners in South Texas so that he can record, from dirt roads, entire families entering the United States – many with children. – after crossing the Rio Grande.
The other involves crossing the border to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and photographing with telephoto lenses, hundreds of meters away, teenagers jumping over the iron barriers that separate the two countries. Or lonely people who, water in their shins, face the current of the river in a shallow end and surrender to border officials on American soil.
Senior photographer for Getty Images and author of the famous picture of a mother with her daughter standing on the border with Mexico, Moore must use these tactics to carry out his work in response to the ban imposed by Joe Biden since his entry in office in January.
“If journalists try to move independently in this area, they are fired by agents of the [agência federal de controle de fronteira] US Border Patrol, who says they are not allowed to be there. In the past, in the administrations of [Barack] Obama and [Donald] Trump, reporters could request to take the tour with border officials, and requests were generally granted. But, with the new administration, they were completely turned down, ”he says.
The difficulty imposed by the Democratic administration was called censorship in a recent Washington Post editorial and has caused scarcity of footage of a crisis at record time – 170,000 immigrants were seized on the southwestern border of the States. United in March, the highest figure in the past 15 years, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, a 70% increase from February.
The White House says access to the press has been restricted due to the coronavirus, but Moore says he finds the excuse “too weak”. If the pandemic is the official explanation, the photographer asks why a group of about 12 members of Congress from Washington were able to visit immigrant detention centers in El Paso, Texas, when only “two or three journalists” were allowed to do so. ditto – on March 30, the Biden administration allowed reporters to enter for the first time.
“I think it was a very important step in the right direction and I think they are probably facing a difficult situation of overcrowding of refugees. But it would be good for the public and the government if we could show how the government is handling this situation, ”says Moore, adding that the White House is trying to control the narrative of the current crisis.
The photographer says he has not been allowed entry into any of the centers where immigrants have been held since Biden took office, which he said was possible with certain restrictions in the Trump administration (2017- 2020) and more easily during the Obama years. (2008-2016). One of the limitations of this type of tour is that it does not show people’s faces.
In addition, the outdoor situations he uses to photograph – seizures of people near the Rio Grande and on border lands controlled mainly by the US government – present a risk of contamination by the coronavirus close to zero, he argues.
If the coverage issue in your own country is essentially access, in Mexico Moore needs to be careful not to have issues with people and drug traffickers – usually belonging to the same organization – who are responsible for controlling the drug. large areas of border territory and known “for not being very nice,” he said.
The fact that, if a criminal makes a journalist or an American victim victim, an investigation will be launched, he said, generating a process detrimental to the trafficking activity.
Even with a career based on photographing wars and conflict zones, Moore says he doesn’t take his safety for granted. “I take a lot of precautions. There is no point in losing tomorrow for a photo today. “