Border Stories (Ascent and Descent)
Since moving to El Paso to accept a teaching position in photojournalism at the University of Texas-El Paso thirty-seven years ago, Bruce Berman has amassed a body of work―punctuated by eloquent narratives―that celebrates the color, culture, and vibrancy of people living along the border―what he calls “ . . . my mythic version of the border.” In 2006, due to the Mexican drug war, life in El Paso and Juárez was altered as a darkness set in, changing the complexion of Berman’s photographic voice. Utilizing black and white instead of color, Berman began documenting the descent of a society that once clung to aspiration and hope. “It [the drug war] came to Mexico and the border in a flash, like a sucker punch’s body blow.” Border Stories offers insight on both aspects of this border existence.
A documentary photographer with a gift for writing poignant accompanying narratives, Berman has worked for professional magazines and journals such as Time, the New York Times, Newsweek, Fortune, Vanity Fair, and Texas Monthly. Today, he teaches photojournalism at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. In 1986, he was represented in the RMAC exhibition Three Photographers: Douglas Kent Hall, Bruce Berman, and Roger Manley. Berman’s artist statement for that exhibition―over two and a half decades ago―rings true today. “What attracts me, and has often left me feeling isolated and unsure of a way back, is that the borderland with all its faults, its crumbling ruins, its people so close to having nothing, its burning intense sun threatening your very existence, is a place between two great forces―the United States and Mexico. Between the smug assumption of the American middle class and the comfortable assurance of the provincial Mexican bourgeoisie, this is a no man’s land. Because so few wish to claim it, it has been a refuge for me, a place to take my stand with camera, heart, and hope . . .”
Berman will present a free lecture on Saturday, March 9 at 10 am in the Bassett Auditorium, followed by a 11am-4 pm workshop in the documentary aesthetic for photography students. The $40 workshop fee includes lunch. Student limit: 10.