The Picture Show
Tue July 24, 2012
The Colorful Days Of Life On The Border
Editor's note: This is another one of those stories that came to me fortuitously by email. Bruce Berman teaches photography in Las Cruces, N.M., and, like many photography instructors, he has a huge archive of his own. This is just a small selection of his color photographs documenting life in the border town of El Paso, Texas.
Bruce Berman says he first went to El Paso "by accident" — when he spontaneously accepted a teaching position without giving it much thought. What he had planned to be a one-year stint turned into a 37-year love affair with the city and its sister city across the border, Juarez.
For nearly two decades starting in 1980, he photographed what he calls "The Border Project" — a vibrant document of life around the city. Over time, he started consistently covering the region for publications like Time and The New York Times.
But in 2006, he says, life in El Paso fundamentally changed — and so did his work. The effects of the Mexican drug war had become widespread and irreparable. "It came to Mexico and to the border in a flash, like a sucker punch's body blow," he writes.
"The [war] changed everything. What had been a society (Juarez) of aspiration and hope ... turned to something terrifying, sad and very very real."
Since then, Berman, who now teaches photojournalism at New Mexico State University, has been shooting in black and white — and the color photos have come to symbolize something else: "I realized that the previous work was, in the end, my mythic version of the border," he says.
You can learn more about the border and Berman's work on his blog.