Between 1983 and 1987 along the California/Mexico border, Ken Light took his Hasselblad camera and flash and rode along with US Border Patrol agents in the middle of the night as they combed the Otay Mesa looking for “illegal aliens.” He was there when they were apprehended – captured by authorities as well as the photographer’s flash. The black and white images are stark, impromptu mug shots in the desert, taken at a moment of extreme vulnerability, when hope gave way to despair, migrants caught in a cruel game of hide and seek.
Light’s photographs and José Ángel Navejas’ first hand, compelling memoir, presented in both English and Spanish, offer testimony of the harrowing night border crossing of those desperately seeking a chance at a better life. A day after Navejas first crossed the US border from Mexico, he was caught and deported back onto the streets of Tijuana. Undeterred, he crawled back through a tunnel to San Diego, where he entered the United States forever.
In piercing words and in strobe-lit images caught against the dark of night, Midnight La Frontera’s immediacy underscores the struggle and defiance of those who make the perilous hike for days and weeks in search of the American Dream.
About the Author
Ken Light is a photographer whose work has appeared in books, magazines, exhibitions, and numerous anthologies, exhibition catalogs, and a variety of media, digital, and motion pictures. He got his start in 1969 photographing for alternative newspapers and magazines which were widely published in posters, books, and hundreds of periodicals.
He has exhibited internationally in over 225 one-person and group shows, including one-person shows at the International Center for Photography, Oakland Museum of California, San Jose Museum of Modern Art, Visual Studies Workshop, Visa pour L’image Perpignan (France), International Fotoage (Germany), S.E. Museum of Photography, Yerba Buena Center S.F. and Smith College. His work is part of numerous collections including the San Francisco MOMA, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the International Center of Photography and the American Museum of Art at the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, Helmut Gernsheim Collection, and many others including private collections.
He received two National Endowment for the Arts Photographers Fellowships, a N.E.A survey and publication grant, the Dorothea Lange Fellowship and a fellowship from the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation as well as grants from the Soros Open Society Institute, the American Film Institute, the California Arts Commission, International Fund for Concerned Photography, the Rosenberg Foundation and the Max and the Anna Levinson Foundation as well as the Johnathan Logan Family Foundation. Other awards include the Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement award in photography, the Thomas More Storke International Journalism Award.
He is the Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism and curator of the Center for Photography at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley and was the 2012 Laventhol Visiting Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was a founder of the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography, which awarded grants to photographers worldwide, as well a founder of Fotovision a non-profit documentary photo organization that was based in the San Francisco Bay Area.