Published by Hatje Cantz/MUDAM Luxembourg. Edited by Tim Johnson. Text by C.J. Alvarez, Ariella Azoulay, Cecilia Ballí, Remijio "Primo" Carrasco, Dolores Dorantes, Darby English, Álvaro Enrigue, Catherine Facerias, Nadiah Rivera Fellah, Josh T. Franco, Esther Gabara, Adolfo Guzman Lopez, Aimé Iglesias Lukin, Elisabeth Lebovici, José Rabasa, Cameron Rowland, Roberto Tejada, Karla Villavicencio.
In 2016, New York–based photographer Zoe Leonard (born 1961) embarked on a project to address contemporary border politics using the river that indicates the international boundary between Mexico and the United States. Along the 1,200-mile journey Leonard encounters various landmarks both manmade and natural. Unmistakable is the presence of detention facilities alongside bridges and levees.
Through Leonard’s black-and-white images, the river known as Rio Bravo in Mexico and Rio Grande in the United States is revealed not just as a river but as a political tool, a source of water, and a region that many people call home on either side of the border. The first volume displays Leonard’s photographs and the second contains written contributions from internationally acclaimed artists, essayists, journalists, poets and scholars. The publication also provides an interdisciplinary reference for people interested in the river, environmental issues, borderlands culture and contemporary border issues.
In the two related bodies of work that form the centrepiece of this volume, Zoe Leonard poses fundamental questions about the medium of photography and the nature of sight.
In a series of large-scale installations, Zoe Leonard has employed the principle of the camera obscura, pairing it with installations of silver-gelatin photographs of the sun.
The image in Leonard’s room-size camera obscuras is immersive and continuous, shifting constantly in response to the fleeting light of the outside world. On entering the installation, viewers’ eyes slowly adjust to the low light as an ephemeral panorama continuously unravels in the surrounding space and gradually comes into its full vibrancy.
Leonard’s camera obscuras have been sited in cities in Europe and the United States, from Venice and London to New York and Marfa. This title explores this body of work through photographs that document these installations in five international cities.
Zoe Leonard was the recipient of the eighth Bucksbaum Award for her camera obscura 945 Madison Avenue at the 2014 Whitney Biennal.