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Documenting the border fence between Mexico and the U.S.

Msnbc.com continues its collaboration with Once magazine on the iPad. The following is excerpted from the November issue.

Melissa del Bosque, Once Magazine, writes: The steel fence zigs and zags from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, a rust-colored scar on the American landscape. It passes through deserts and fertile farmland, backyards and wildlife refuges.

Eric White for Once Magazine

California, U.S.

For some politicians the fence is a talking point, embodying a promise to keep America safe. For many Americans who live near it, the fence, which covers 649 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile-long international border, speaks only of the failure of politics.

Since 2001, the Department of Homeland Security has turned the neighborhoods around the fence into militarized zones, replete with surveillance towers, the National Guard, sensors, and predator drones.

Eric White for Once Magazine

Arizona, U.S.

Their communities divided, those who live on either side of the fence simply call it “the wall.” This 18-foot-high wall is the first thing Dr. Eloisa Tamez, 75, sees when she looks out the back door of her modest home in El Calaboz, a rural community near Brownsville, at the southernmost tip of Texas. Border Patrol agents in green and white SUVs patrol the fence line in her backyard every day.

“I feel like I live in an occupied zone now,” she says. “I’m watched constantly by Border Patrol and asked where I’m going whenever I step on my own property.”

Eric White for Once Magazine

Arizona, U.S.

 

Photographer Eric T. White answers questions about the project:

Q: How did you decide on the topic of the border fence?
A: My family lived in New Mexico when I was very young. I remember going to El Paso, Texas, and crossing the border into Juarez. At that time, Juarez was not a scary place and we would stay for the day, eat at restaurants and do some shopping. So I guess that began my fascination with Mexico, since then I've been to every state in Mexico and been through nearly every single land border crossing with Mexico.

Q: How did you decide on the approach?
A: I think it important to show the physical barrier itself and not focus on the people involved, it seemed more honest to me. It's an incredibly difficult issue and I did not want to influence the viewers' point of view with my photographs.

Eric White for Once Magazine

State of Baja California, Mexico

Q: Anything surprising that you came across in making the photos?
A: There were many points in my travels when I came across artifacts left behind by people who had just crossed over the border --  baby bottles, personal items, clothes, etc. This was both deeply personal and slightly disturbing to me.

Eric White for Once Magazine

California, U.S.

Q: Did this project make you think differently about the border, the fence, or border politics in the United States?
A: Basically I realized how incredibly complicated this issue is; for every argument there is a counter argument. There is no right or wrong, only points of view.

Eric White for Once Magazine

California, U.S.

Read more at the Once Magazine blog, or download their app for the iPad.

Related content:

Story: Police find major drug tunnel under US Mexico border.

 Slideshow: Narco culture permeates Mexico, leaks across border

Video: Drug flow from Mexico on the rise