The Things They Carry

From Altair Magazine, Olivia Vivanco’s powerful photographs of Central American migrants on their way to the United States, bearing the only thing they can offer to the free market: their hands.


‘It is a series with a simple photographic composition, but conceptually very powerful. The work succeeds in presenting the theme of migration in a complex and poetic way, incorporating text, biographical data, and yet keeping the migrant themselves visually anonymous’.


‘We do not see their faces, giving more power to the image, forcing us to read and reflect on these relics held like treasures in their hands, these hands which are the only merchandise these migrants have for sale in on the market. ‘


With these words, the jury of the Latin American Documentary Photography Competition in Medellin handed its nineteenth annual prize to the series Relics in the category of migration. Vivanco focuses her lens on the flow of migrants from Central America, across Mexico and toward the United States border with dedication and care. She finds in the anonymous hands of these migrants a kind of truth at once deep, and modestly concrete.

The author, on Relics:
“The migrants undertake this journey bring with them ideals and expectations, fears and desires. The way is hard and inhospitable, there is little space to carry anything with them. They come with nothing more than themselves, but almost always bearing some little thing from their lives before, an image, an object that brings back memories, that evokes themselves or their identity.”


“The way is long and much is lost; every kilometer that they move forward, these objects take on a greater value, almost religious. They are held and revered, they are the contact with what was left behind and with the motive for leaving, the evidence of what is there and why they must go on.”


Olivia Vivanco Translated from Spanish by International Boulevard.