The selected image is a picture taken in 2014 by John Moore in a detention facility in McAllen, Texas. Moore has been able to capture many scenes inside of the United States detention centers, which haven’t been accessible to many. His pictures gives a rare insight at the interior look of most recent detention centers, which helps understands people’s treatment whiten them. The built environment of detention centers weren’t supposed to be prisons adjacent nor supposed to criminalized populations fleeing climate change or humanitarian crises, but despite their intent to be safe temporary transitional spaces, many would argue the contrary.
This particular picture was chosen, because of the clear overview of the built environment of this particular detention centers. Due to the influx of immigrants, most of Moore’s pictures are usually filled with people; but the lack of people in this photograph give a clear sight of the components that composes the space.
The perimeter load bearing CMU walls, provide an open space with little obstruction, which is ideal for sight. To keep consistent with the importance of sight, the separated space are made of chain-link fences which does not interrupt one’s vision and is ideal for supervision. Adding to the need of sight, a concave mirror is installed at the top of the fence, where a right angle corner is formed. Having a warehouse like open space, also allows for flexibility of reduction of expansion of spaces if needed. This allows them to accommodate more or less immigrants depending on the demand.
Assuming that the guard in the picture if six feet tall, the chain-link fences around the facility, seem to be at least twice as high which would discourage anyone from climbing them. The door that allows access to the different sections, is also equipped with a number pad, which indicates that not everyone can move freely from one space to another. Only those provided an access code can.
There are no windows in the perimeter walls nor skylights, instead bright white lights are suspended from the ceiling. The idea of not having any fenestration, seems to be intentional, as not having sight of the outside can remove one’s sense of time and location.
All of the previously mentioned components of the picture, if not given the location and context, would easily be identified as a jail.
Another important aspect of the picture, the human aspect, helps understand what kind of people are found in these spaces, and how they are being used.
At the center of the picture, a young child is found looking up at a television screen, where casper the friendly ghost is being played. The television is mounted on a plywood board, which indicates that it was a last minute thought, as wood isn’t found anywhere else in the facility. The child is performing a “child like” activity but now in a child like place, as there are no place to seat and he his standing up to be entertained. Another striking element of this child is his feet; he isn’t wearing any shoes, which invoke two thing: that he can’t go too far and that the place that he is in, is more of a long term space for him to occupy, which is in contrast with the guard wearing an uniform and shoes, which is a temporary condition.
Other than the guard’s uniform, his posture and sight bring a lot of enigma to the picture. Although he is standing next to the child and his body is facing the camera, He isn’t looking at the photographer nor the child. Instead he seems preoccupied by something happening outside of the picture frame and has a grip around his belt, which could possibly be a gun.
This image by Moore shows the kind buildings and treatments that refugees experience when being in “detention” from fleeing climate and humanitarian crises that they had no partake in.