Encountering an image that captivates one’s interest with its’ mystery and narrative is quite possibly the best part of working in an archive. It is an embodiment for the ideas that spark the next book, exhibit or any number of projects. Looking through a handful of postcards and photographs dating back to the Mexican Revolution, I wonder what this box will tell me. Generals, cities, families, and the results of battle, today I chose this image to share.
A post card titled “Mexican Troops Leaving for the Front.” We see men headed to battle, rifles in hand. Where is this location and where exactly are they headed? Does the photographer mean the front lines? Or, as we might know it today “La Frontera” (the border)? Although the card is postmarked 1916, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the year the image was taken. This group is heading into unknown situations, how many would make it back? And who sent this post card to a woman in New Jersey? The details that make up this image’s story are not exactly clear.
As mentioned earlier this image is in fact a post card, one of many within the collection. I have come to learn this was the source for most photographs from the time; photographers traveling alongside soldiers, capturing scenes and as another postcard writes, “cost pesos” to obtain. As I dig deeper, perhaps I’ll find the answers. But for now, we are transfixed by the uncertainty of the men this image: those who pose, those looking down and away, and that hand in the bottom right that seems to be pointing at the title.
-Caridad, The Burns Archive