Jeoffrey Guillemard
Southern Border

Every day, migrants from Central America try to enter the USA to escape violence, unemployment and corruption in their home countries. For these people, most of whom come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the threshold to the American Dream lies in southern Mexico. Once they arrive there, the refugees travel on foot for days to reach Arriaga, the first city in the south-west where they can climb onto the freight train heading north. This train is called “la bestia” (Eng.: the beast) for good reason. No one knows when “la bestia” will arrive. When they hear its whistle blow, everything must happen quickly. No one knows whether the train will stop or rush past at top speed. No one knows whether they will end up on top of the train or underneath it. On the roof of the train, many exhausted migrants become victims of robbery or sexual assault; they are misused as drug mules or killed. Jeoffrey Guillemard started this photo project in 2017 – on the day Donald Trump was elected as President of the USA.

  • Escape
  • Mexico
  • Trump
  • USA
Interactive Map

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The Interactive Map illustrates Jeoffrey Guillemard’s journey through the localization of the photos and the photographer’s narrations.

»I think the boarders have to be more open than close.«

Jeoffrey Guillemard
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

On September 19, 2017, at 1:14 p.m., a 7.1 earthquake on the Richter scale struck Mexico City. I was eating tacos with a friend, I had my camera with me, I took a taxi to the downtown area to document the situation. That day, more than 300 people perished under the rubble of their buildings. I worked as hard as I could, questioning my ethics and how far I could document the situation without an assignment and without being sure to sell my photos. I came home late, edited my photos and sent them to the French newspapers. Few editorials choose several of my photos to illustrate their respective articles on the subject. I was between the fear of an aftershock of the earthquake and in joy to have managed to do my work as a photojournalist, documenting and publishing. Feeling that I had made the right choice in documenting the people in search of survivors. The next day there was a deliverymen strike in France and no newspapers were published that day. It was hard but I knew it was my place to photograph what was happening.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

I began making the “Southern Border” story in January 2017, a few months after Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. During his campaign Trump spoke only about Mexicans and how a “great” wall could prevent illegal migration from their neighbouring country. I wanted to find out more and I discovered that more than Mexican migrants, there are many other people tempted to cross this border to escape violence in their own country. So I started to document the migrants’ journey of the people from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, Haiti … and all those migrants who take risks to travel through Mexico to reach the United States. This work continues until the end of Donald Trump’s mandate.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

In the future, I think that slow photojournalism could become more creative and come out of the crisis to regain his true value.

Curated by Anne Speltz

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1986 in Nancy, France
Jeoffrey Guillemard has worked throughout North America since 2006. He has spent most of this time in Mexico, where he now lives. After a period as an autodidact, he took up the study of Photography at the EMI-CFD in Paris in 2014. In particular, Guillemard documents current social movements, migration, sexuality and religious practices. In 2019, he won the first prize in the Migration category at Picture of the Year LatAm. His pictures have appeared in The Washington Post, Le Monde, Libération and other publications.


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