Gareth Smit
Gareth Smit
Gareth Smit

Started in 2018 through a Magnum Foundation grant, this project combines poetry and photography to investigate the intersection of religion and migration in the borderlands of Arizona and Sonora, the ancestral land of the Tohono O’odham.

This section of the U.S.-Mexico border separates not only the Tohono O’odham people, but their sacred sites and ancestral land. Since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and later the Gadsden Purchase, the O’odham were repeatedly divided and clustered by federal laws.

The threat of the wall being built on the border is a threat to their sovereignty. Today, the desert is a scene of violence and brutality. Overwhelmed by U.S. immigration policies, migrants cross the desert risking their lives. Adding to the death and destruction on ancestral land is a generalized state of violence along the border. Entire towns, like Cu:wi I-gersk, have been abandoned as the O’odham fled for their safety.

Photography of the border often reflects the dualism it portrays: we see either the Mexican side or the U.S. side, since the photographer is embedded with a migrant caravan, or the border patrol. This collaboration seeks to suspend the dualism and, through poetry and photography, enter a space of reflection about what remains when the border is not there.

Artist Bios

  • Gareth Smit

    Gareth Smit is a documentary photographer working in issues related to migration, race, identity, and violence. Gareth Smit es un fotógrafo documental. Su trabajo trata temas de migración, raza, identidad y violencia.

  • Ofelia Zepeda

    Ofelia Zepeda is an O’odham poet and Regents’ professor of O’odham language and linguistics at the University of Arizona. Ofelia Zepeda es una poeta O´dham y profesora en la Universidad de Arizona donde enseña lingüística y lengua O´odham.

  • Martín Zícari

    Martín Zícari is an historian working on the problem of enforced disappearances in Mexico. He is completing a Ph.D at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, under a European Research Council grant. Martín Zícari es un historiador trabajando sobre la problemática de la desaparición forzada en México. Realiza un doctorado en la KU Leuven con una beca del ERC.


  • Magnum Foundation

    Magnum Foundation

    Magnum Foundation expands creativity and diversity in visual storytelling, activating new audiences and ideas through the innovative use of images. Through grant making, mentorship, and creative collaborations, we partner with socially-engaged imagemakers exploring new models for storytelling.

    This program was produced with the support of Magnum Foundation’s Counter Histories initiative supporting projects that creatively reframe the past to engage with urgent questions of the present and future.

The Place Where Clouds Are Formed

 archive : 2019

Featuring: Gareth Smit Ofelia Zepeda Martín Zícari

Curated by: Kristen Lubben

Presented by: Magnum Foundation
  • Magnum Foundation

Supported by:

  • United Photo Industries (UPI)


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