With politicians debating border security and immigration, a curious St. Mark’s School of Texas ninth-grader picked up his camera and headed to Brownsville.
(ABOVE: Ekansh Tambe has photographed the U.S. Mexico Border, Israel, and the Korean Demilitarized Zone.)
“It was supposed to be just a weekend trip to the Rio Grande Valley border and back, but then after that, I kept at it because of the people that I had met and the inspiring and heart-breaking stories that they had told me,” 14-year-old Ekansh Tambe explained.
Including that initial trip in 2017, he has traveled to borders on four continents and taken more than 10,000 photographs. He created a book and a website to chronicle his experiences and has become a busy speaker, telling senior groups, civic clubs, and others about what he has seen and experienced.
“I try to tell the stories of the people that I met as they tell them through me,” Ekansh said. “I just want to show people an unbiased view of the border” by taking photos of hardworking people on both sides of the border including border patrol agents.
“I try to tell the stories of the people that I met as they tell them through me.” -Ekansh Tambe
His goal: help others see border situations with compassion, perspective, and empathy.
“The solution is figuring out how to look at things through the eyes of other people, wheth-er it would be through border patrol agents, immigrants of the Mexico border, war veterans, or UN soldiers in the Korean DMZ, or the religious and faithful citizens of the Israeli borders claiming the Holy Land,” Ekansh said.
After Brownsville, he went to the border region in New Mexico and made trips to Yuma, Arizona; El Paso, Texas; San Diego; and the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
In 2018, he went to Israel, where he explored the borders with Lebanon, Syria, West Bank (Palestine), Gaza Strip, Egypt, and Jordan.
Then, during winter break, he visited the Spain-Morocco border followed by Germany to see the remnants of the Berlin Wall.
Such travels are made with the ongoing support of his family.
“I would encourage Ekansh to continue exploring in his journey across borders, to educate and learn from his travel experiences, and once he has gained these experiences, he should share the knowledge so that he can encourage other people to do the same,” his father, Vinay Tambe, said.
Ekansh hopes to photograph the Columbia-Venezuela border and one of the caravans heading to the United States.
“It’s important as a citizen or resident of the United States to know what situations are happening throughout the world,” he said. “The entire world benefits from learning about these places through their conflicts, problems, people, and basically, the more people that know this, the better chance we have of resolving these problems and the better place our entire world is.”
• Ekansh Tambe’s book, The Great Divide: A Journey Across the US-Mexican Border, is available online.
• His photos are on his website, thousandwords-photography.squarespace.com.
• Ekansh spoke during TEDxPlano on April 6 at the Courtyard Theater in Plano. Visit tedxplano.org for details.