Venus Exclusive Outtakes: The Marfa Dream; Border Patrol in the Instagram City

Work by Maria Oliveira and Karen Sabel Lewis.

Marfa, TX is famous for it's Prada store installation, the wholly inappropriate tipis at El Cosmico and basically being the place you want to be Instagrammed at. What is never seen in the content produced by bloggers and influencers that visit the area is the heavy border patrol presence in this tiny town. 

The Marfa Dream; Border Patrol in the Instagram City is a photo series collaboration between Maria Oliveira, a formerly undocumented immigrant, and Karen Sabel Lewis, an Afro-Latina artist, that explores the juxtaposition of American blogger culture in areas heavily monitored by US Border Patrol near the Texas Mexico border.

The idea for this series occurred upon the realization that El Cosmico, located in Marfa, Texas, and one of the most Instagrammable places in the state, shares a fence with a Border Patrol station. The presence of Border Patrol is constant throughout the very small town of Marfa as Border Patrol SUVs perpetually roam the town. Yet this presence is completely invisible in all the Marfa content that bloggers, Instagrammers, and influencers produce.


In an area where art meets border militarization, how would our presence be taken?


Our experiment was to flip the focus from the usual Instagram-worthy locales to the Border Patrol stations located literally across the street from them. What would happen if two Latinx brown girls embodied a “blogger” aesthetic and infiltrated this usually immigrant hostile space? Would we be seen as a threat or as harmless fashion girls? In an area where art meets border militarization, how would our presence be taken?

As we began shooting this series, we quickly discovered our fashion-forward style and attitude diffused our Latin-hood and created a barrier between our identity and the way we were perceived. At one point, we interacted with a Border Patrol agent who instead of aggressively asking the questions immigrants are often asked in these areas, flirted with us and offered to take our photo; we accepted and the photo is horrible. He read us as two cute girls on vacation and never thought to question our citizenship status. This shows how immigration policy is enforced subjectively by people who decide on a daily basis who is and isn’t a threat. Our project flips the audience’s gaze to show how the same space that is famous for being a dream world for young and creative U.S. citizens is simultaneously a very dangerous place for immigrants.

Photos were taken in front of 3 Border Patrol stations in the Marfa, TX area. One shares a fence with El Cosmico. 

Click images to enlarge + see captions. These outtakes were curated specifically for Venus and will not be shared anywhere else.