Desire Lines looks at migration as an inherently human act – one that has defined human history and the geopolitical framework of our planet. Shipley’s photographs are seen in dialogue with interviews from migrants and long-term residents, 20th century oral histories and 19th and 20th century archival photographs. This mix of time and perspective highlights a region long marked by migration, individual desire and preservation, but also systemic dominance and colonial control, hidden in hundreds of square miles of remote terrain.
Desire Lines follows old and new movements through the desert landscape of the Sonoran borderlands of the United States and Mexico: paths taken by migrants and border agents, of missionaries and conquistadors, of indigenous people and industrialists. The messy and at times violent collision of peoples has created a region that defies the harmfully simplistic narratives so frequently attributed to our borders.
Shipley’s photographs focus on the disorienting experience of this landscape – a place of beauty or danger depending on the perspective of those moving through it. Deceptively empty, the landscape is under constant watch, heavily surveilled and controlled, with an ever-increasing military presence that has seeped into the lives of residents in surrounding communities.