Arizona Border Recon
A few months ago - on a rare rainy Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles - I found myself couch-bound & idly flipping through Netflix when I stumbled upon the documentary, "Cartel Land." If you're not familiar, it tells the story of a few vigilante groups along the US/Mexico border who are currently at war with the cartels. I settled in & hit PLAY.
As I watched the documentary, old curiosities were reignited. I first heard of the existence of militias, citizen armies, and "patriot groups" back in 1994. They've been a fascination of mine ever since. Who are the people who join these groups? What is their motivation and what do they hope to accomplish? When I finished the documentary, these questions still remained and I realized I could find out for myself. So I reached out & made contact with Arizona Border Recon - one of the groups featured in the film.
After a series of emails, each making it further up their chain of command, access was finally granted and Neil & I were soon on our way to their forward operating base near Sasabe, AZ. Nine hours later, and nine more miles down a rambling & rutted desert dirt road, we pulled into camp. It was small, with only a few members holding it down and a couple others sleeping off their ops in nearby tents. Jann, the matriarch of the group, welcomed us warmly & introduced us to the few members milling about camp. The rest, she said, were out in the field, spread over miles of desert & holed up in hides you couldn't see if you were standing right on top of them. So, with their blessing & a fistful of GPS coordinates, out in the field we went.
The portraits that follow are a study of the members of AZBR - all shot on location during their most recent operation. We make no judgement on whether what they're doing is right or wrong, good or bad. Our only agenda for the project was to show each member's own personal truth. Some feel they're heroes, some are more humble. Some miss the camaraderie of the military, while others long to satisfy the sense of duty they felt when they served. Some lost family to drugs or drug-related violence, and others are angry about lost jobs. Some want to "protect the 'Merican way of life," while others are more thoughtful. They all welcomed us with open arms and, for that, we are grateful.