A Janitor Preserves the Seized Belongings of Migrants 01
Lighters, cigarettes and deodorants. Photo: THOMAS KIEFER

There is something tragic and melancholic about the beauty in these photographs. Each individual item represents a backstory of their respective owners. Tom Kiefer was a Customs and Border Protection janitor who discovered the confiscated items were just being put in the trash. Link to his story and more photographs.

From The New Yorker:
One day in 2007, he was rummaging through these bags looking for packaged food, which he’d received permission to donate to a local pantry. In the process, he also noticed toothbrushes, rosaries, pocket Bibles, water bottles, keys, shoelaces, razors, mix CDs, condoms, contraceptive pills, sunglasses, keys: a vibrant, startling testament to the lives of those who had been detained or deported. Without telling anyone, Kiefer began collecting the items, stashing them in sorted piles in the garages of friends. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he told me recently. “But I knew there was something to be done.”

A Janitor Preserves the Seized Belongings of Migrants 02
Non-essential personal items are confiscated and disposed of. Condoms? Photo: THOMAS KIEFER
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Non-essential personal items (Rosary Beads) are confiscated and disposed of. Photo: THOMAS KIEFER
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Plastic shopping bags to carry food and personal belongings. Photo: THOMAS KIEFER
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Sometimes wallets are considered non-essential belongings and get discarded. Photo: THOMAS KIEFER