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Coronavirus Culture

UTEP students exhibit their photos of pandemic life on the border

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Students at UTEP will present their documentary photography projects to the public virtually on Wednesday evening

Working all semester, students in Corrie Boudreaux’s digital photography class visually documented the impact of the pandemic in the border region. 

With topics such as small businesses, essential workers, online learning, mental health, migrant shelters, and artists, each photo essay tells an individual story through which viewers can see the everyday impact of the pandemic as border residents have adapted to restrictions, changes, and grief. 

Students had many challenges in completing their documentaries, starting the semester with a wide range of skills and experience levels. While some students had already worked professionally as photographers or filmmakers, others were picking up a real camera and lens for the first time. 

Throughout their work on documenting the pandemic, they themselves were not immune to its impact, especially as case numbers surged in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez this fall. Some students became ill with COVID-19 and others were exposed and forced to quarantine. For others, their chosen subjects decided not to continue with their participation in the project after restrictions tightened on both sides of the border. The young photographers had to put aside weeks of work and start over with a new subject.

Hugo Hinojosa, a junior digital media production major, documented the work of an artist during the pandemic. 

“We both are aware that we are lucky to be where we are despite the COVID toll,” he said. “Melissa was born in Juárez and made her way through, standing today as an independent artist. I want to celebrate that — her success as a woman.” 

Melissa works on her handmade clay pieces at her kitchen table on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of Hugo Hinojosa)

Pablo De Anda, a sophomore, focused his work on migrants living in a shelter in Juárez. “They’re still waiting for their asylum hearings, and they still have to go through the stress of a global pandemic while they are in the middle of their migration process,” De Anda said. “I am a strong believer that you can create social change through artistic expressions, so, if I’m able to even make the audience feel something with my work, that would mean the world to me.” 

Students at a newly constructed classroom in the Alabanzas al Rey migrant shelter in Ciudad Juárez work on assignments on Nov. 19. Many migrant families who were living in Juárez under the Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico” policy have seen their court dates delayed for months due to the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Juan Pablo de Anda de Alva)

A virtual exhibition opening will conclude the digital photography course on Wednesday evening. The documentaries will be available for public viewing following the virtual opening. 

Rancho Rodela, a family-operated farm that grows pistachios, pecans, cotton, and other crops, continued to operate during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Rodela)

Cover photo: A street vendor in Ciudad Juárez prepares a customer’s order on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Chavez)

Disclosure: In addition to being a UTEP professor, Corrie Boudreaux is a freelance photographer who has done extensive work for El Paso Matters.

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