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Peter Goin photographs of the U.S./Mexico boundary

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Ms-0540

Content Description

Thirty-nine ink-jet photographic prints made from scans of original negatives of the U.S./Mexico international boundary between El Paso, Texas and Nogales, Arizona, made between 1985 and 1987. The prints are a portfolio set made by the photographer Peter Goin for NMSU Library from his project Tracing the Line: A Photographic Survey of the Mexican-American Border.


  • 1985 - 1987

Conditions Governing Access

This material may be examined by researchers under supervised conditions in the Caroline Stras Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been transferred to NMSU Library. Images are not to be reproduced. Inquiries regarding use should be directed to Peter Goin.

Biographical / Historical


Peter Goin is an American photographer best known for his work within the altered landscape, specifically his photographs published in the book Nuclear Landscapes. His work has been shown in over fifty museums nationally and internationally and he is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Goin is currently a Foundation Professor of Art in Photography and Videography at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has also done extensive rephotography work in the Lake Tahoe region.

Goin is the author of numerous books, beginning with the 1987 limited edition portfolio Tracing the Line: A Photographic Survey of the Mexican-American Border. He served as editor of Arid Waters: Photographs From the Water in the West Project (University of Nevada Press, 2002) and also as co-author of the Atlas of the New West (Center for the American West, University of Colorado, Boulder), a collaborative effort with members of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

His photographs have been exhibited in more than fifty museums nationally and internationally, and he is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships.

Goin's video work has earned him an EMMY nomination as well as the Best Experimental Video Award at the 2001 New York International Film & Video Festival. At the turn of the new century, Peter was awarded the Nevada Governor's Millennium Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts.


39 Photographic Prints

.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



From the photographer's description of the project:

Tracing the Line: A Photographic Survey of the Mexican-American Border

This is the first photographic survey of the International Boundary and its landscape from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. The region along the boundary supports deserts, rugged mountains, valleys and two major rivers - the Rio Grande and the Colorado. There are 276 monuments along the land boundary that measures 698 miles from El Paso to the Pacific Ocean, and fifteen pairs of sister cities with a population of more that 12 million.

Landscape is defined by boundaries, whether natural or human-made. A border is a line, and is the first step toward dividing space. The boundary line is a point of contact, presumes a separation, and represents an enclosure. It is meant to isolate, identify, and protect as much as it is to contain. Instead of an anonymous stretch of land, the landscape derives identity from its imposed structure.

This line is not the simple connection from point A to point B. It is a dynamic fusion of how pattern is created in the landscape. Line becomes direction, as the walker follows the line to that mountain peak. The fence is a line, just as the Rio Grande is a line. Yet the river line is constantly changing, rarely straight. It leaves remnants in the form of resacas or oxbow lakes. Line becomes new just as it leaves evidence of the old. Converging lines indicate depth while the horizon line implies distance. There are electric lines and gaging lines use by the International Boundary and Water Commission. Paths, roads, bridges, and fences with barbed wire become line. Line is implied. Lines intersect each other. The line creates tension by dividing space, both visually and culturally.

This survey introduces new visual images of a landscape previously avoided, neglected, or fenced with "no trespassing" signs. The photographs were not taken at a prearranged time according to a specific geographic grid. Each photograph must represent an area far greater than the parameter of its rectangle. These photographs reflect not just the geography of the border, but its complexity with respect to line. They show the stage, not the participants. Yet the stage reveals the presence of the actors by how they have changed and charted the character of the landscape.

Condition Description

Guide to Peter Goin photographs of the U.S./Mexico boundary
Dennis Daily
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA