Twelve-year-old Ekansh Tambe was curious about the U.S.-Mexico border after seeing the controversy on the news in August 2017, so he asked his father if they could take a quick trip to check it out. What started as a weekend jaunt has turned into a multi-year photography project that has taken Ekansh, now 14, to five different borders across four continents. Along the way, the St. Mark’s School of Texas freshman has used his Nikon D5500 to photograph more than 8,000 images.
“I would like people to see the border as it is, just the facts and nothing more,” he says about the U.S.-Mexico border. “Agents were kind to share their views on the everyday challenges they face. Residents provided insights. As I listened, the impact the border has on citizens, residents, immigrants and federal agents began to unfold.”
Ekansh met an elderly woman at the Mexico border who gave him a geography quiz before agreeing to talk to him. The woman was so inspired by Ekansh that she gave his family a four-hour tour of her border town until midnight. During that time, she shared her story: she had crossed over the border illegally decades ago, worked in nursing homes and sewed to make ends meet. Her son served in the U.S. Army.
In addition to the U.S.-Mexico border, Ekansh explored the border between North and South Korea with his dad. In the summer of 2018, he traveled with his parents and sister, Ashna, to the borders of Israel and Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Gaza. He watched as Gaza militants fired rockets. He could see charred fields and a tank rolling in the distance, and he could hear gunfire. “My mom was sitting in the car when we heard that. She rolled down the window and said, ‘Get back in!’’’
Ekansh loves reading, playing ping-pong and competing in tennis. Science is his favorite subject. He spends his time speaking about his project at parks, leadership programs, museums and fire departments. In April, he delivered a talk at TEDxPlano. And Addison Art Program has curated an exhibition of his work.
“I loved meeting people and hearing their stories,” he says. “They had similar tales of sadness and inspiration.”
Ekansh’s father, Vinay Tambe, travels with him on every trip. “I love supporting him,” Tambe says. “My job is to give him what he needs. If he can get one mind on either side of the political spectrum to change their mind based on what they learn from his projects, then he’s accomplished his goal.”
Ekansh’s plans include exploring the Venezuela-Colombia border and immersing himself in a caravan coming to the U.S. from Mexico.
“Photography is going to be a big part of my life,” he says. “Even if I don’t choose it as a career.”
For more information about Ekansh Tambe’s photography, visit here.
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