Hundreds of stories lie behind the photographs of Thomas Kiefer, because every one of the items in his pictures once belonged to somebody else. They were all taken from immigrants, many of them illegal, by U.S Customs and Border Patrol in Ajo, approximately 40 miles from the Mexican border, and each one represents somebody’s search for a better life.
The series is titled El Sueno Americano (The American Dream), and the pictures were taken by the Arizona-based photographer when he worked as a janitor at Ajo Station. One day he decided to start cataloguing the hundreds of “non-essential” personal items seized by border agents and discarded during processing, and these items – from spoons and shoelaces to wallets and Rosary beads – create powerful collages that sometimes took weeks to assemble.
As the photographer writes on his website: “My intent is to explore the humanity of the migrants who risked their lives crossing through the desert and to create a personal connection for the viewer to a migrant and their hope for a better life.”