Susan Harbage Page
Susan Harbage Page is an American photographer whose artwork examines issues of immigration, race, gender, labor, and nation. Born in 1959 in Greenville, Ohio, she grew up in North Carolina and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Since 2007, Page has been traveling to the borderlands in between Texas and Mexico to photograph objects left behind by vacating migrants. The project is known as “Objects from the Borderlands: The US-Mexico ‘Anti Archive’” and the items photographed include clothing, wallets, toothbrushes, and water bottles.
By canoeing and walking along the border, Page strives to document a place that is often imagined and spoken about by people on either side. The items Page picks up are eye-catching relics with a powerful history behind them. They do not belong to the rich or famous, but instead, they tell the story of a struggling population longing for a better life. Some of the items are fragmented and withered from time, while others are still wet and were left behind only a few hours prior. The photographs are incredibly powerful and exude a myriad of emotions, including sadness, abandonment, fear of capture, adrenaline, determination, and relief. The images show the danger, violence, and potential exploitation associated with crossing the border while ultimately depicting the grief and suffering created by this space.
Page ultimately attempts to humanize these individuals by portraying them as more than just “trespassers” and “illegals.” Many of the objects retrieved are personal and private, and they are deeply connected to their owners. They leave the viewer wondering more about the previous holder’s fate – did they make it across successfully? Were they caught? Were their dreams fulfilled?