Q&A with Eduardo L Rivera

Published April 17, 2019
Photos by Eduardo L Rivera, 2018 Flash Forward Winner

LBR. Why the fascination with the familial home life in the arid landscape of the American Southwest?

ELR. The first photographs that struck me were snapshots of my mother during the late 1960s after she and her family emigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona. My mother sat me at the kitchen table and pulled out a shoebox containing stained Kodak prints. As I looked at places that I had never seen before, and relatives whose faces were unknown to me, she spoke of her childhood and the wondrous memories that were translated into the pictures. While gazing at a portrait of herself at ten years old, her voice tightened as she recalled the pain of being systemically separated from her homeland of Mexico for a more prosperous America.

Since 2009, I have made collaborative photographs with my mother that depict fragments of the quotidian to suggest a very personal relationship to the arid and uncertain borderlands of American Southwest.

LBR. In this respect, how do you avoid reproducing tropes or stereotypes about a place and its people?

ELR. I am often thinking about issues around representation, especially when I am working in an atmosphere near the U.S. – Mexico border where notions of the Mexican or Mexican American are misinterpreted by the media and by U.S demagogues. Dr. King once noted: “Our minds are constantly being invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and false facts.” With those words in mind, I make pictures of my family from a position that is authentic to our experience and trauma. It is imperative we construct our own narratives.

LBR. From your observations how does the physical landscape where one lives informs their identity, if at all?

ELR. Power, authority, violence, and access all play crucial roles in how the physical landscape can inform one’s identity. Gloria E. Anzaldúa said it best: “Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact one’s shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an ‘alien’ element.”

Eduardo L Rivera (b.1989) is an artist whose work functions at the intersection of photography, books, and personal narratives. He has exhibited throughout the United States including the Tucson Museum of Art; Houston Center for Photography; the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center; and the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University. Additionally, his work has been featured in various web and print publications, such as GOOD magazine, Aint–Bad magazine, Hyperallergic and has been commissioned by The Financial Times weekend magazine and The New York Times magazine. Eduardo received a B.F.A in photography from Arizona State University and an M.F.A in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art. He currently lives in Boston and works in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University.


Laurence Butet-Roch

Laurence Butet-Roch, a member of the Boreal Collective and Muse Projects, is a freelance writer, photo editor, photographer and educator based in Toronto, Canada committed to encouraging critical visual thinking. Her words have appeared in the British Journal of Photography, The New York Times Lens Blog, TIME Lightbox, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Polka Magazine, PhotoLife, BlackFlash and Point of View. She is the editor of Flash Forward Flash Back.