Ford arrow, Las Cruces, New Mexico, by ©Bruce Berman, 2015
Workers on the company boat, Golden Gate Bridge construction, 1935 by Peter Stackpole
(photo from an original print. Much of Mr. Stackpole’s work was lost in a 1991 fire)
Jimmy Cotton on the harp, Wise Fool’s Pub, Chicago, 1969 by ©Bruce Berman
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPH BY Bruce Berman, Editor
Photograph from the upcoming book, ChiTown Journal (Border Blog Press) by Bruce Berman.
Jimmy Cotton was a legendary Blues player in the Chicago tradition. He was from the Mississippi Delta and was discovered and promoted by the great Muddy Waters (also from the Delta). The Wise Fool’s pub was a mainstay Northside pub on Lincoln Avenue (across the street from another main blues bar, the Oxford Pub).
This photograph was made on the last set of a three set night (at 2:30am, April 18, 1969.
I gave Mr. Cotton a print copy of this image in the mid 2000s at a concert venue in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
He smiled, said he liked it, then added in one sentence, “Ouuu…That was such a young man.”
More on Mr. Cotton: https://bit.ly/2lWNFkI
VIDEO: Dealing With The Devil Jimmy Cotton https://youtu.be/MXtldRJxj5c
July 1942. “Chevy Chase, Maryland. Serving supper to motorists at an A&W Hot Shoppes restaurant
on Wisconsin Avenue, just over the District line,” by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information
School Girls on a bus in Juárez, 2002
How many times have I wanted to cross over the Bridge to Juárez, jump on a ruta autobus and never return to mi lado (the other side, El Paso, America) again?
A bunch of times. Actually, in the last decade, every time. ¡Muchos tiempos!
When I go to Juárez I realize within minutes that the bubble I live in America is a prison not a home. It’s a construction. A development.
Instead of working this feeling out, I take photographs, like an archeologist, always trying to root out what this means, and, for a very long time that has been enough.
But it isn’t enough now.
I’ve reached an age and a stage where if something isn’t real it isn’t OK, and I trust my feelings to know what rings true.
I’ve come to a place where truth is sweet wine and the pretty word/mind picture that looks like successes just a flicker, like a digital video image that pixelates for an instant, disintegrates into a weird busy mosaic for a moment and then reforms into a clean and clear image. One is left all too aware that what you’ve been looking at is just an image, constructed from electronic materials, not a living breathing reality.
Our country -perhaps the whole “first world” has become a planned development, a grid built for consumption. Every highway, every building reeks of impermanence. It’s a society built by actuaries that calculate shelf life and then proceed, not a society that proceeds and builds for forever.
Juárez is a reality. Warts and all.
It’s got problems but they are in the open, real. Its “texture” is being sandpapered, too… but because it has less equity, it is being transformed more slowly.
It has pure moments of beauty as well.
These smiling girls, on a public bus, are doing nothing but what they’re doing. The photograph is just a record of what happened.
When I go back across that bridge, to El Paso, to America, I no longer am sure what is reality or what is a construction of a reality that I’m supposed to embrace but that I know I do not love.
Do I really have to love flat textureless buildings in endless commercial strips? Do I really have to love the Interstate, a battleground without ethical guidelines or decency.
The clue to this image is that it never flickers. It doesn’t give clues that you may be seeing someone else’s construction of a reality.
The image does not flicker. It just is. Frozen. Still. Permanent.
What flickers I don’t trust.
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPH BY BRUCE BERMAN
Eras are always changing. They’re changing now. Old liberals aren’t enough now, socialists may not be enough next year.
In 1968 the era was changing as well. In the photograph above, Martin Luther King had been assassinated only six months before. Bobbie Kennedy, only three months before.
The old Civil Rights movement was being paralleled by the anti-war movement. The old Baptist church arguments, high on morality and sincere ecumenicalism of previous years was being replaced by the Hell No I Won’t Go movement, sincere, but clearly lacking in thought-out ideology. “I won’t go,” isn’t a spiritually-driven theology.
In one of the many protests in the hot summer of 1968, in Chicago, during the Summer of Rage, Part II, the contrasts between these two eras was becoming evident and the clash was real. The old Civil Rights leaders’ voices were being drowned out by the new Black Nationalist voices of the Black Panthers and others. The middle class kids were more enraged by getting grabbed by the Draft Boards than they were by Segregationist southern sheriffs.
This photograph, shot in Lincoln Park, Chicago, in August 1968 was a glimpse into the divide to come. By September, 1969, fourteen months later, the divide was complete. MLK was gone. The Kennedys were gone, Black Panther Fred Hampton had been assassinated by the Red Squad of the Chicago PD, Bill Ayers and the SDS Weathermen started to learn the craft of bomb-building (and went underground one year later), and the old, moral voice of the Civil Rights movement was all but drowned out in the dark and strident days that tagged the next ten years in the coming 1970s.
I-10 Dog, El Paso, Texas, 2011
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPH BY BRUCE BERMAN
When I first got to El Paso, I ran into a guy and he told me, “El Paso is just a truck stop on I-10.”
He didn’t mention the desert, the border, the mountains, the river, Juárez, etc.
I’ve lived in El Paso for almost 45 years. It’s all those things I mentioned but, it’s also “… just a truck stop on I-10.”
It’s been fancied up lately. I’ve seen it here, before. Somebody makes out, but the fact is, if you want to be hip there’s hipper places. If you’re hip here, you really aren’t. Sorry.
But this faux hipness, which will inevitably lead to another failure, sandpapers over the very thing that is actually the cool thing about El Paso: it’s not “hip” at all! That’s its charm. That’s not pathetic. That’s genuine.
Mediocre hipness? Not cool. Genuine ruin and authenticity?
That allure is gone from here now. It’s crowded. The border is a mess. The hipsters are stunningly ordinary. The old folks are not of this land. They’re like the new highways, faster, less fun. Generations have passed. People that were of this land, that left, that came back, have now packaged the cultural past and have covered themselves in a cultural identity that is but a fabrication, an identity that was their grandparents, without the sweat and sabrosa.
Development. What a euphemism. [Hit there CONTINUE READING tab, below]
Nelson Algren at his Chicago home site as it is being
wrecked for a new expressway, by Art Shay. 1957
INTRODUCTION BY BRUCE BERMAN
Here is a great interview by Mike Thomas, for Chicago Magazine, with Art Shay, the great Chicago photographer of the 1950s, 60, 70s, 80s, 90s and, yes, even the 2000s. He was relentless, gritty, no nonsense, a true artist (because he didn’t consider himself to be one). I used to “soup” his film deep in the bowels of Astra Photo Lab, at 6 E. Lake Street, in 1969. I didn’t know he was even an influence until 40 years later. His main lesson, by example, was: “…keep shooting, always keep shooting.”
Mr. Shay passed on April 28, 2018. There will never be another Art Shay. He was one of a kind, in the manner of Weegee.
READ HERE: https://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/April-2018/Legendary-Photographer-Art-Shay-Tells-His-Remarkable-Story/
Art Shay by Art Shat
High School Beach, Venice, California, 1949 by Max Yavno
Max Yavno worked as a Wall Street messenger while attending City College of New York at night. He attended the graduate school of political economics at Columbia University and worked in the Stock Exchange before becoming a social worker in 1935. He did photography for the Works Progress Administration from 1936 to 1942. He was president of the Photo League in 1938 and 1939. Yavno was in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945, after which he moved to San Francisco and began specializing in urban-landscape photography.
He was one of several post war photographers who lived and worked in what became a new culture, the Southern California middle class leisure car culture.
Girl at a counter (from ChiTown Journal), Chicago, by Bruce Berman. 1968
Photograph and text by Bruce Berman
Getting closer on the Chitown Journal book. Having to dig really really deep into old files. Feels bad and good! The hardest part is seeing what a total rookie I was and how few good images I produced. It tells me the ability to become an image-maker is a journey not a condition. In teaching, it is obvious, this generation with great cameras always in their hands and the ease of making images has sped up the process.
So I dig around in the past and watch them consume the present.
I guess I’m not the “new kid on the block” anymore.
Chicago, by Bruce Berman. 1971
Text and Photograph by Bruce Berman
Working on my book Chitown Journal.
Digging ahead on this but it’s like a time tunnel to yesteryear. The deeper I dig the darker it gets. Not sure, even, why I’m doing this except that I like looking at the images. When you’re looking back a couple of generations you wonder how these people turned out. What happened? Any millionaires, murderers, poets, policemen, shrinks, grave diggers, photographers, Aldermen?
Can’t know. All that I have is images. They tell many things but never facts and never data.
Evil Eye (of Google), El Paso, Texas, 2018
If a dude you don’t know was in front of your casita taking pictures, wouldn’t you go out and ask him/her what they’re doing? Would you not feel righteous indignation (your home is your castle…. why is this cat snapping photos of my castle?)?
Why does Google have a right to drive up and down the streets of this world taking pictures of your home? Who made a law making that alright? Where does this end? Is there an X-Ray camera that can penetrate the outside of your home and looks at your inside? When does that machine get arms and legs and jump down and punishes you -inside or out- for what they think is a “transgression? Is that OK for Google to do? Or the Government? Or your worst enemy? Or the local pervert?
Who is this OK with?
Roy DeCarava was one of the most influential documentary photographers of the 1950s-1960s. He was known more for the simplicity and ordinariness of his work than for it being spectacular or showy. His particular importance was photographing the Black community of his native Harlem and for the jazz scene of the era.
For a more thorough descrtiption of DeCarava’s work check out the always insightful Claire O’Neil’s essay at: https://www.npr.org/sections/pictureshow/2009/10/decarava.html
For more information on Arthur Tress click here.
Carole Warrington and her Menominees. Chicago, 1970 by Bruce Berman
On May 5, 1970, a group of American Indians set up an encampment behind Wrigley Field. Led by Indian activist Mike Chosa, and Menominee Carol Warrington, the Chicago Indian Village (CIV) protested against inadequate housing and social services for Chicago’s 15,000 American Indians. The occupation of Wrigley Field’s parking lot began with CIV’s when a Ms. Warrington was evicted from her Wrigleyville apartment (she refused to pay the rent claiming the apartment was substandard and that the City Housing Authority was not inspecting it and forcing slum landlords to bring it up to code). This eviction led the group to a two-month encampment at a Wrigley Field parking lot.The following summer, Chosa and Worthington led a group of fifty men, women, and children in a two-week occupation of an abandoned parcel of government land, a former Nike missile base, at Belmont Harbor. Evicted from the site, they took refuge at the Fourth Presbyterian Church.
This action was part the American Indian Movement (AIM), which is still active and is an activist group that fights for Native American rights.
Vyacheslav Korotki walks out under a full moon to an abandoned lighthouse
that used to serve the Northern Sea Route, to gather firewood to help heat his home.
Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva
Evgenia Arbugaeva was born in the town of Tiksi, located in the Russian Arctic. In 2009, she graduated from the International Center of Photography’s Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program in New York and since then works as a freelance photographer. In her personal work she often looks into her homeland—the Arctic, discovering and capturing the remote worlds and people who inhabit them.
Arbugaeva has been a winner of various competitions. She is a recipient of the ICP Infinity Award, Leica Oskar Barnack Award and the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund Grant. Her work has been exhibited internationally and appeared in such publications as National Geographic, mare, Le Monde, and The New Yorker magazines, among others.
Exurbia #7. Horizon City, Texas, 2018
Text and photograph by Bruce Berman
The Exurbia series concentrates on the landscape that is neither suburban nor urban. It is usually found in the lands just beyond the suburbs, places where individuals and small businesses went, years ago, where the land was cheap and undeveloped. Now The Grid is coming to these places, doing what The Grid does: gobble up the land, erase or sandpaper its textures, oust the one-of-a-kind, make things safe and expected, over-electrified and deadingly dull.
Exurbia is the land that is America today, a place where the suburban cookie cutter machine has come and is bringing the American Dream, which for many is the American Bore.
Photograph and text by Bruce Berman
This is about “it” folks.
The last of this barrio, this old ‘hood, known as San Pedro and, later El Pujido (the “push” referencing some knife fights the deteriorating barrio came to be known by in the sixties and seventies).
From the east is coming a vicious storm of hipsterism, of micro brewery silliness, restaurants with ridiculing foo foo pinched across the top.
Horse barn. Mesilla Valley, New Mexico, 2018
Photograph and text by Bruce Berman
The Mesilla Valley extends from Radium Springs, New Mexico, to the west side of El Paso, Texas. It is intersected by the Rio Grande river (which becomes the Rio Bravo on the Mexican side, which begins in El Pas/Juárez) The valley is characterized by its few remaining bosques, as well as its native cottonwood trees.
It’s been 5:00 o’clock at The Clock on Dyer Street for as long as I’ve been in El Paso (43 years).
It’s reassuring that time does not change particularly after 43 years (if you know what I mean).
But even in a land where time stands still, once in awhile, roadside signs need to be renewed.
It’s an art form. The letters are made of rubbery plastic. You have to know what you’re doing and this phantom sign renewer does. Name? Withheld. Working for the restaurant? Not saying. Getting paid? Maybe.
It’s almost 5:00PM for this image. It’ll be almost 5:00AM in twelve hours.
Even a broken clock is right… twice a day.
Text by Bruce Berman
Whatever this crown was announcing is long gone. A bar? A restaurant? A store? Probably a bar… but who knows?
The photograph of the Crown of Canutillo, Texas is what remains (and perhaps a memory here and there).
Who constructed it? Why a crown in this funky little town that’s on the border up against New Mexico? Was there dancing?
We like old cars because they’re like older people. A little twisted, Smashed up a little. Never gonna be what they were. Their very existence holds clues and mysteries about where they’ve been, what they did, where they lived, what happened to them.
The mysteries: What happened to twist her teeth? When did her paint disappear? What color had she been before the golden rust appeared? What tasks did this truck warrior perform through her long and, I am sure, honorable service? Who mourned her decent?
These things we will never know. There’s the limitation of a photograph: her past cannot be known, nor her future. There is only this, my noticing of now.
I guess the ultimate question is, does she still run?
If so, who does she serve and what service is left to do?
I do not know what’s going on here but I will find out.
Roger Minnick is the voice and the heart of Southern California, especially in the 1970s and 80s. This was the California that the rest of the USA flocked to. Surfin’ USA!
Minnick always has had his finger on the pulse of the state. He just “gets it.”
For more work by the incredible Minnick, see: https://www.rogerminick.com/southland
Untitled (2012) from the series Tiksli
by Evgenia Arbugaeva
For more work see: http://bit.ly/2y8bQha
Me by one of mes, 2017
Maintaining five websites that have been corrupted, uncorrupted, twisted, tweaked and reincarnated.
Trying to handle 54 students and drive them to creativity and inspiration.
Walking through the valley of death that is academia.
Attempting to stay relevant after 4+ decades of shooting.
Maintaining various relationships.
Trying to figure out the question that even Mr. Natural couldn’t couldn’t answer(what’s it all mean?).
Having a healthy outlook and attitude of gratitude.
What’s the alternative?
Andreas Feininger, born December 27, 1906, was a pioneer of modern photography. Born in Paris, son of the painter Lyonel Feininger, Andreas was educated in German public schools and at the Weimar Bauhaus. His interest in photography developed while he was studying architecture, and he worked as both architect and photographer in Germany for four years, until political circumstances made it impossible.
The Very Large Array (VLA) is a centimeter-wavelength radio astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico.
West Texas seems vast, seamless, endless and infinite.
But consider the Universe!
No walls. No boundaries?
No end we can even imagine.
Can you get your head around that?
I studied with Ernst, briefly, in 1979. He was a great guy, very honest and one of the most elegant people I ever met. He got excited by Mahler while everyone else was getting excited by the Rolling Stones!
His photography mirrors that elegance. Whether it was for himself or a commercial client (he did a lot of really great stuff for Lufthansa) the work was always personal and usually intriguing.
Enjoy Ernst: http://bit.ly/2BlQZcB
This eye has been on America for a long time now.
We think we’ve been watching the world through it but, in reality, it has not only been watching us, but sucking us into its world of fantasy and deceit.
Text by Bruce Berman
Arthur Rothstein was hand picked by Director Roy Stryker to be one of the original photographers for the Historical Section of the Resettlement Administration (later the Farm Security Administration/FSA). The unit was birthed to be an explainer for agriculture projects that benefited the agrarian sectors of Depression-ravish America. Rothstein’s “eye” was excellent, his technical skills first rate and he always came back with the goods and then some.
Why doesn’t he get the attention of Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans, or, even, Russell Lee?
Was it the cow skull “controversy?”
For me this “controversy has always seemed,well… overblown. He moved the skull several times and then, finally, settled on the one we all know.
Was he (visually) lying?
I think not.
Migrant Father, June 1938, by Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange’s extended caption:
Old time professional migratory laborer camping on the outskirts of Perryton; Texas at opening of wheat harvest. With his wife and growing family; he has been on the road since marriage; thirteen years ago. Migrations include ranch land in Texas; cotton and wheat in Texas; cotton and timber in New Mexico; peas and potatoes in Idaho; wheat in Colorado; hops and apples in Yakima Valley; Washington; cotton in Arizona. He wants to buy a little place in Idaho
Ice truck, Juarez, 1975
(from Walking Juárez)
This is an image from the upcoming book -Walking Juárez- by Bruce Berman. It is one of the images from the story “Iceman.” It will be available on Amazon (Kindle eBook and Print)and in selected bookstores on July 6, 2017.
Migrant family on highway, California, 1937
Photograph by Dorothea Lange
Extended Caption: California at Last: Example of self-resettlement in California. Oklahoma farm family on highway between Blythe and Indio. Forced by the drought of 1936 to abandon their farm, they set out with their children to drive to California. Picking cotton in Arizona for a day or two at a time gave them enough for food and gas to continue. On this day, they were within a day’s travel of their destination, Bakersfield, California. Their car had broken down en route and was abandoned.
The DOCUMERICA project was created in 1972 and its Director, Gifford Hampshire, tried to recreate the all-encompassing visual story of America that Roy Stryker began in 1936 with the Farm Security Administration project that told the story of the Depression and, more generally, the story of America as it struggled through the Depression and then toward the end in 1939, told the story of a strong America, preparing for war.
Charles O’Rear was one of the notable photographers for DOCUMERICA. For more about him, including the story of how he created Bliss (the iconic Microsoft screen image) view: https://youtu.be/_G5Z8aMctBw
Photo by Leonard Nadel
Editor’s Note: The Bracero program addressed the issue of demand for labor and the need for work. It was a cooperative program that allowed America’s work needs to utilize the need of Mexico’s workers’ need for employment. It was legal, it was effective and it was a clear win-win program. Therefore it did not last. Too logical. And here we are now, 52 years later, with America needing workers, Mexicans needing employment and total chaos at the border. One could ask, is this chaos or planned exploitation?
Here is a mini-history of the Bracero Program. Let the discussion begin.
Text by Smithsonian National Museum of American History The Bracero program (1942 through 1964) allowed Mexican nationals to take temporary agricultural work in the United States. Over the program’s 22-year life, more than 4.5 million Mexican nationals were legally contracted for work in the United States (some individuals returned several times on different contracts). Mexican peasants, desperate for cash work, were willing to take jobs at wages scorned by most Americans. The Braceros’ presence had a significant effect on the business of farming and the culture of the United States. The Bracero program fed the circular migration patterns of Mexicans into the U.S.
Several groups concerned over the exploitation of Bracero workers tried to repeal the program. The Fund for the Republic supported Ernesto Galarza’s documentation of the social costs of the Bracero program. Unhappy with the lackluster public response to his report, Strangers in Our Fields, the fund hired magazine photographer Leonard Nadel to produce a glossy picture-story exposé.
Presented here is a selection of Nadel’s photographs of Bracero workers taken in 1956: shttp://s.si.edu/1gRD3VJ for Nadel’s photographs and other resources.
March 1937 by Dorothea Lange for FSA
“Next Time Try The Train– Relax.”
Lange captioned this with the walkers own words: “Well– give me the fare and I will, buddy. We ain’t walkin’ for our health…”
Stanley Kubrick, 1946, for Look Magazine
Not many people think of Stanley Kubrick as a still photographer. After all, the creator of such monumental classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove and Lolita is etched in our brain as the grand American cinematic auteur.
But, even before all that, he was roaming the streets of New York City, grabbing life as he knew it. He did assignments for major publications of that era, and apprenticed with and later became a staff photographer for LOOK magazine, one of the two giant picture magazine (the other being LIFE).
At LOOK he photographed such greats as Frank Sinatra and Erroll Garner to George Lewis, , Papa Celestin, Alphonse Picou, Muggsy Spanier, Sharkey Bonano, and many of the greatest jazz musicians of the New York scene. It wasn’t until 1948 that Kubrick took an interest in cinema after viewing films at the Museum of Modern Art’s film screenings.
Tenant farmer moving his household goods to a new farm.
Hamilton County, Tennessee, Rothstein, Arthur, 1937 (LOC)
Ten Children, March 1937, by Dorothea Lange,
for the RA (courtesy of OMCA)
Watch this six minute video from Paul Salopek giving an update on his Out Of Eden Walk, presented to the Pulitzer Center for the 100th birthday of the Pulitzer Prize.
Circa 1892. “Woman diving from pier.” J.S. Johnston
The Funklands are where you find them, and, when.
Bruce Berman started this project when he was in his early 20s, in the 1970s, and just starting out in photography. He cruised the highways and the low-ways of America, no particular agenda, stopping often (to the consternation of those driving with him), always looking for the funk, the detritus of other eras, the iconography of his youth and the times before him.
This America is now almost gone. It hangs over bars in places like Austin or Madison, Los Angeles or Chicago. The Funklands have turned into “Fly Over” territory, still there, still quasi rural, but now, unrobed. The structure of the Funklands, textured, bold, spectacular, has been replaced by franchised plastic, flatness, sameness.
We celebrate corporate identity in the iconography of now, not roosters and skeletons and old Cadillacs.
The Funk has turned from delight to nothingness. Occasionally there is a McDonald’s that riffs on a local theme, but pretty much not.
The Funk is hard to find.
The Pre Art Landscape is one in which there are images only attractive to some’s intellect that titillates the intellect of others who are over educated, over intellectualized, clean from lack of experience with the world that they choose to not touch and where, through their lack of desire to know a world around them other than the one aforementioned, allows them to revere and praise that which is without interest to anyone but them and their ilk.
So here is an image from my Guggenheim Fellowship submission. I created this less than fifteen minutes ago by walking out the back door of my slum loft (yes there are still some around that the yuppies and Julias haven’t occupied and, therefore, chased out those who were living there, not for some feeble concept of what is cool, but because, previously, they could afford the rent if they were willing to put up with the inconveniences and degradations of everything that the word “slum” implies).
If I hadn’t written this piece I very well may have earned a Guggenheim.
I coulda been a contenda…instead of -let’s face it- a bum…which is a what I am…*
I couldn’t resist the rant.
I suspect that’s what has saved my heart’s soul from an early death.
*Thank you Budd Schullberg (http://bit.ly/1KetpPl)
Text and Words by Bruce Berman
The meteorologists call this a “High Pressure system being pushed out by a Low Pressure system.”
Photographers will admit “every once in a while things come together and you get a lucky.”
What do I call it? What does one get for being out there, every evening and every day, always with your “axe (camera)at the ready, often coming home with nothing but the pleasure of having been out there trying?”
The funny thing is, as usual, I was in a part for town I’d never been in before (there are few left). It is a very unusual ‘hood for El Paso. In another city one would call it the “ghetto.” Here, no one thinks there is a ghetto. Being a predominantly latino city (82%), if you have a neighborhood that is lower income, the natural thing is to call it a barrio. This neighborhood was definitely “low income,” and of the three people I conversed with, two had been drinking alcohol to the point of inebriation. It is a mostly Black neighborhood, unusual in El Paso that is only 4% African-American.
Okies on U.S. 66, March 1937
by Dorothea Lange
Text by Bruce Berman
All Commentary (definitely) Subjective
The Farm Security Administration (FSA) started out to show government programs to the taxpaying public, to gain support for the New Deal agriculture initiatives of the Resettlement Administration (RA). From mid 1936 to late 1939 it did that but in the doing it found itself -pushed by the hand of its Director, Roy Stryker- documenting “American Life.”
The beginning of the FSA concentrated on the devastation of people and land of the agrarian sector but, as time went on, it broadened its image-making to include the way all Americans lived and worked.
The America of the 1930s is still out there, in the backlands, far away from the eyes of urban America. In fact, if one only learned of the interior of America from the mainstream media (all situated in urban America) one could not know that the America of the 1930s FSA is ongoing, alive, and functioning.
These images are a sample from the FSA road, a road I travel often, now, in 2015, seventy nine years after the creation of the FSA and their portrayal of America.
Then as now it is typified by open space, graphic simplicity and, agriculture and a sense of order now uncommon in urban America.
The Hyena Men of Nigeria by Pieter Hugo©2015
Pieter Hugo is a South African photographer whose subjects are wide ranging. All of them cut to the bone, right down to the quick of the African reality in the 21st century. The Hyena Men of Nigeria is part of a larger and ongoing opus.
Text and photograph by Bruce Berman
El Paso is in transition. It was always complicated. There was the whole “Southwest” thing and then again, there was the whole Chicanismo thing, and then again there was the cowboy thing, and then again there was a certain ex Pat vibe for 60s and 70s refugees who never went home.
And there was the growing suburban thing, the Ohio is too cold and El Paso is affordable tilt.
Now El Paso is getting more simple. It is trying to spruce itself up and become a destination. They have a baseball team downtown now, and a restored fancy movie theater within walking distance of it and there are bicycle riders and bicycle lanes everywhere ( a sure sign that the “texture days” are done).
It’s still El Paso but some (real estate developers and those that are young that can’t quite make it out) hunger for it to be Cincinnati. Good luck.
For those who have known El Paso for many decades, to see court jester-dressed bicyclists pedaling through downtown is jarring. It is a pure contrast to the bruised authenticity that has been El Paso’s greatest strength (for me), for those of us who have been hiding here.
Text and Photograph by Bruce Berman
There’s a little left.
The era of funk is passing.
What’s left is either pure decay or rot from an era of plastic, synthetics and lack of design distinction.
What would you rather see, a decaying car from the 40s, 50’s or 60s or a decaying anything from afterwards? Afterwards it’s just junk that was of little endearment before it fell into disuse.
Besides, the stuff from the post war era is almost gone, all hung up in bars in places like Austin, Portland, Cincinnati, Boca Raton and Chicago.
Authentic ruin is hard to come by. It’s a good investment for those who aspire to never ever actually live with it.
The “backlands” of the USA are either redeveloped or falling into unlivable ruin.
There are people in there, by choice or circumstance.
My next era of work will be an exploration of Authentic Ruin in the Backlands.
Kimball the American, El Paso, Texas, by Bruce Berman
Commentary by Bruce Berman, Editor
Why is it the street guys not only aren’t shy about flying “Old Glory,” but are vigorous in telling you why they love it? Compare this to any college campus. Not only can you not find a glimpse of the Stars and Stripes, there are numerous organizations that want it -or anything it represents….like the military- anywhere near it.
Is a puzzlement or is it an insight?
Perhaps, as we look at the condition of the country and the rumors of its demise, we need to start looking to the streets for some answers, not to the walls of academe.
We’re not in Kansas anymore that’s for sure. How far away from iRobot is this and how long will it be before I can get someone to clean my loft for me (hope they don’t get the crazy eyes)?
Seriously, the 3D printer is a revolution of the first order. See how Lexus designed a night prowler:
LISTEN TO BILLY BILLY:
Editor’s note: Susan Meiselas, Magnum Photographer and long time great documentarian, discusses documentary photography, motivations, uses, intentions and hopes for the work’s impact on subjects and society.
This project, funded by the Open Society Foundations (Meiselas Co-Curated the project’s exhibition), shows the work of some of the world’s best contemporary photographers working in this discipline.
Watch this lovely video. Be inspired. A true original.
Was he the finest wine of the great era?
Why was he not mentioned in the same breath as Avedon and Penn? Could it be he was too original, too pure, too soulful?
Bridesmaids and best man at a wedding in Chavez Ravine, 1929.
Courtesy of the Shades of L.A. Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Memorial service for men killed during the
Japanese attack on Kanehoe, Hawaii
courtesy of Navy History and Heritage Command
Louie Schwartzberg speaks at the TED lecture.
This is a beautiful piece and should change your (and everyone’s) life:
Restoration Square, Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Horácio Novais Studio
A beautiful set of photos of Portugal at night, through the years, shot on Portugal Day.
Officially observed only in Portugal, Portuguese citizens and emigrants throughout the world celebrate this holiday. The date commemorates the death of national literary icon Luís de Camões on 10 June 1580.
Our colorful universe or good Acid trip?
From OMG Facts
NASA says that taking color pictures with the Hubble telescope is much more complex than taking pictures with a regular camera. The reason for this is that the telescope uses special electronic detectors instead of using film.
The finished pictures that we see are actually combinations of various black-and-white exposures to which color has been added. Sadly, this means that sometimes they play with color as a tool. The colors you see on a photo aren’t necessarily what you’d see in real life.
The way they do it, is they have different filters that capture different sections of the color spectrum. For example, they will adjust their sensors to capture red light, then green light, then blue light.
This gets them 3 black and white photos. However, they each are of a different brightness depending on what color it is. In a picture of Mars, the red photo will be brighter than the others.
After they color each photo, they combine them and the result is the photos you see them publish!
Article edited and written by Bruce Berman
Carl Mydans began his photographic career with the Farm Security Administration in 1935, and was quickly hired away by Life magazine in 1936. Mydans photographed national stories until 1939, when Life sent Carl and his wife Shelley Smith Mydans to cover the war in Europe as the first husband and wife photo-journalist team.
From Europe, the couple was re-assigned to the Pacific theater. In 1941 they were captured by Japanese forces in the Philippines and held as prisoners of war until 1943. Mydans returned to the war alone in 1944 to cover the Italian front, while his wife and partner remained behind in the United States.
Carl Mydans was born in Boston on May 20, 1907. The family moved to Medford, Massachusetts, on the Mystic River where Carl went to high school and worked in the local boatyards after school and on weekends. He later became interested in journalism and worked as a free-lance reporter for several local newspapers. In 1930 he graduated from the Boston University School of Journalism.
Mydans then moved to New York and, while working as a reporter for the “American Banker,” began to study photography at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. In July 1935 his skill with the new 35mm “miniature” camera landed him a job with the Department of the Interior’s Resettlement Administration, which soon merged into the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Mydans joined Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein as the core of the remarkable team of photographers assembled by Roy Stryker to document rural America.
While travelling through the southern states photographing everything that had to do with cotton, Mydans developed the shooting style he would use throughout his career. He concentrated on people, and he photographed them in a respectful and straightforward manner. As he had been taught to do as a reporter, he kept careful notes on every shot.
When Mydans joined the staff of Life in 1936 he joined a group of photojournalists who were changing the way press photography was done. Photojournalists had traditionally used 4×5 Speed Graphic cameras with flashguns and reflector pans, and their pictures of people tended to look much the same: overlit foregrounds fell off to dark backdrops that had no detail. But Mydans and his colleagues at Life relied on 35mm cameras that allowed them to work with available light, capturing a new kind of excitement and activity in their photographs. Their success with the small camera revolutionized the practice of photojournalism.
Images from NIGHT TREK series. I take strolls. I shot whatever I see. Like the old days before I was supposed to “be relevant.” The phonier is dumb, There’s always fingerprints (which one forgets to wipe off) because it’s in my pocket with change, keys, debris. I’m not caring because the point isn’t to be a photographer but to stroll. I think Cartier-Bresson said something about a photographer needs to be a good “stroller.”
I’m a good stroller anyway.
All these were shot on the mobile phone camera three days ago, Monday, May 21, in the Segundo barrio, the place that I stroll often and for years.
The quality of the “tech” is marginal.
BUT, the liberation of just being another idiot with a cell phone, priceless!
The mobile phone returns one (especially one who no longer looks like a Spring Chicken) to the roots, invisibility, just another vato in the ‘hood. I hate bad technique, but, I love being FOW again (fly on the wall).
What do you think? Lower technique but higher involvement? Or go for higher technique and be the outsider jamming that thing into people’s lives?
Are Phonera’s a democratizing Good Thing?
Bermaloid of the film shelf, May 2012
Commentary by Professor B KIller
Is it really over? Film? Well, actually that’s impossible. Film is any medium that can hold an image (my translation).
But is it that film that has silver on it on an “acetate” base is over with?
I teach at a university. I’ve been there for four years. When I got there I was shocked to find out that they still had darkrooms. For one reason or another we kept them. I couldn’t arrive on the job, announce “The Darkrooms Are Dead” and be the killer!
And, as we went on, the students kept saying, “We love this.”
Well, some did. Soime hated it. Some loved and hated it. Many went on to be excellent photographers (in digital).
The point was that they were still learning some good lessons -as I and my generation did- in that dim room, swathed in yellow-red light, interacting with each other as they struggled with the old wet process of film and enlarged prints.
Cool but archaic.
So, here we are, at the end of another year, and as I look forward I struggle, once again, with the idea of being the Killer.
Anyone out there have any comments on this? Opinions? Experience with being the Killer Of The Darkroom or having fought off the axe of extinction?
Register on the blog and let me know.
You got to love paper. And aging. And photos. And writing.
Yes, it’s all in the “database” there, at the end of the keyboard, through Google. But is it?
Even if it is it has no texture, no odor, no reality.
Take this trip to The New York Times Morgue. A perfectly wonderful place to spend a lifetime.
Here is a nice vision for a documentary project that involves multiple photographers, blending old and new.
If you speak Chinese you can forgo the subtitles!
Altaf Qadri, 35, is an award winning photographer.
Qadri, 35, won a World Press Photo award this year for his poignant photograph of relatives mourning over the body of a man killed in a shooting by Indian police in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
photography Altaf Qadri
Qadri, an Indian citizen, is a native of the Kashmiri city of Srinagar. He studied science at Kashmir University and worked as a computer engineer before taking a job as a staff photographer at a local Kashmiri newspaper in 2001.
In 2003, he joined the European Press Photo Agency and covered the conflict in Kashmir. In 2008, he began working for The Associated Press in the Indian city of Amritsar. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world and has been exhibited in the United States, China, France and India.
André Cypriano takes us into the forbidden hills of Caracas Venezuela. He takes us into a strange land of oddly shaped houses, winding streets carved out of the hills, into a land so odd and so foreign that it must be myth but can only be reality. He notices, as all greart documnentarey phtography does, that ordinary reality, in some cases, is always more intense and mind-boggling than any fiction can be,
Cypriano takes us to Rochinha.
How he got there, who gave him access and what he encounters is worth serious viewing time. In the New York times Lens Blog post, below, wander with André.
He will take you on a journey you well not forget.
For more from André Cypriano, see:
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El Paso —-
Bruce shoots Juárez. Reluctantly and with remorse.
Since 2008 the photographer has been documenting the aftermath of violence in the troubled northern Mexico city. His interest is in the effect of the Cartel War on the population of the city, particularly the effect on the children of the city who have grown up knowing little else.
His current work is in a mental institution in the city, what he refers to as “The House Of The Abandoned.”.
The body of work -The Other Truth- will appear on this site on November 18th.
Hungary Baths by Amy Vitale©2011
From Ami Vitale’s website (http://www.amivitale.com):
Ami Vitale’s journey as a photojournalist has taken her to more than 75 countries. She has witnessed civil unrest, poverty, destruction of life, and unspeakable violence. But she has also experienced surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit, and she is committed to highlighting the surprising and subtle similarities between cultures. Her photographs have been
exhibited around the world in museums and galleries and published in international magazines including National Geographic, Adventure, Geo, Newsweek, Time, Smithsonian. Her work has garnered multiple awards from prestigious organizations including World Press Photos, the Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism, Lucie awards, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, and the Magazine Photographer of the Year award, among many others.
Now based in Montana, Vitale is a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine and frequently gives workshops throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. She is also making a documentary film on migration in Bangladesh and writing a book about the stories behind the images.
Is Photojournalism Dead Yet?
by Bruce Berman
A whole generation of street photographers have emerged in the digital era.
In fact there is a book dedicated to the subject that has over one hundred street photographers published.
I do not know one name.
What one can glean from this book and the plethora of postings on Facebook, Flickr, and other social media sites is that there are still photograp0hers who go into the streets with intention, commitment and courage and dance with the uncertainty of the randomness of street photography.
For a very good example of this work, visit http://www.street-photographers.com.
The work is good!
Another interesting site is on Vimeo and is produced by the prodigious street photographer Chris Weeks:
But, in the end -and most street photographers acknowledge this- there is still the master of the Decisive Moment, The Man (!), Henri Cartier-Brsson. His work is still fresh, still charming, still brilliantly composed and still a model for a generation, shooting now, who’s grandparents were barely born when Henri was snapping away with his new found Leica.
For a thrilling and significant look at Bresson’s work, view the video below.
The next post will be an in depth look at street photography in thjis era, the era of post 9/11 street paranoia, digital speed and, seemingly, the “we have already seen everything,” media.
For now, Henri still rocks.
Article posted courtesy of Huffington Post and Steve Ettlinger
Is Photojournalism Dead Yet?
by Steve Ettlinger
Born in the 1930?s, come of age in the 1950?s and 60?s, and pronounced near dead in the 1970?s and virtually buried by the closing of magazines/rise of the internet–you have to wonder how it is that some aspects of this wonderful world are still around.
Editor’s Note: This is an amazing project. In the era when people worry about the demise and/or future of journalism, when academics question the effectiveness of journalism in a 24/7 news cycle world, there is JR, who is producing and promoting another form of photojournalism and not only bringing his subjects into the communication process, he is bringing the work done on the subjects back to their environments. Check it out:
INSIDE OUT is a large-?scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world.
This is a presentation of MagRack and is a lot of fun.
If you’ve seen the serene images he has done on Cape Cod or the somber and meditative images from Ground Zero, here is another aspect of Meyerowitz. His roots. New Yorker on the prowl where almost anything is game.
Ingushetia by Andrea Bruce
Andrea Bruce is a passionate, stylish, skilled documentary photography who’s images -in the best traditions of still photography- sear your soul and drive their point through your heart, restoring it instead of terminating it. She is the new breed of documentary photographer that blends all the skills of good journalism with all the skills of great graphic image-making and produces a coctail that is nothing less than photo alchemy.
Take a look: http://www.andreabruce.com
Contact Sheet of Ashley Gilbertson’s Conflict Photography
“He has a very good news sense and for me that’s really essential,”
says Cecilia Bohan, foreign picture editor for The New York Times.
“I need them [her photographers] to be my eyes and ears on the ground.”
Ashley Gilbertson is a VII photographer and one of the strongest Conflict Photographers working today. His recent work, done far from the battlefield but in the bedrooms of fallen soldiers, is one of the strongest testaments to the outright sadness about Loss that War induces, that this editor has ever seen.
For a sample of Mr. Gilbertson’s work:
- For a personal website:SEE: http://www.ashleygilbertson.com/index.php
- A piece from 2004 in Photo District News, SEE: http://www.ashleygilbertson.com/index.php
- For The Shrine Down The Hall, SEE: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/03/21/magazine/20100321-soliders-bedrooms-slideshow.html?hp
These are not the view of Japan that we normally see. Shiho Fukada shows us how some elderly people in Japan fare. It is not a story unique to Japan.
[pro-player width=’600′ height=’500′ type=’video’]http://documentaryshooters.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/PearlOnFilm3.mov[/pro-player]
Lost Boys of Afghanistan by Moises Saman
See this stirring slideshow by Moises Saman shot for The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/08/27/world/20090827AFGHANMINORS_index.html
Self portrait by Evegen Bavcar
Photography has always been thought about as “another,” way of seeing.
And it is.
But, usually, we think about that as a person looking through the camera, seeing what’s there, and, through the magic of the camera and the film -or digital- capture process, one sees the world in different way.
More advanced photographers and appreciators of photography then allow for the transformative recognition of the quality and angle of light, of the Decisive Moment, of the power of distance to subject or, even, luck or magic.
It is this latter idea that infuses the work of Evgen Bavcar ((“E-oo-gen Ba-oo-char”), the Slovenian photographer is completely blind, completely eccentric and his images are totally wonderful.
“My name is Dechen.”
Watch this touching video done by Dhiraj Singh.
He did an interesting thing: A Video Biograph.
In a way, all Visual Journalists who do stories on people, are doing “biography,” but with the addition of audio, where the subject can speak for themselves (edited, of course), where the image-maker can animate the images and drive the viewer’s emotions, the subject of the story becomes more “alive,” the depth is ratcheted up, and, potentially, the medium is beginning to resolve the age old struggle of photojournalism: Who’s viewpoint is this about? The subject’s or the photographer’s?
From “Six Feet Under,” ©2009Dhiraj Singh
For more work by Dhiraj Singh, SEE: http://www.dhirajsingh.com/01.htm
Dhiraj Singh is a Photojournalist who lives in Mumbai, India. His work has been published in numerous international magazines and online journals, including Newsweek, Vanity Fair, msnbc.com, The Wall Street Journal, L’Expresso, and, many others. He has won numerous awards (see his “bio,” on his site, above) and participated in many exhibitions. His pictures of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 were part of the prestigious group exhibition titled, ‘Bearing Witness’ held in Mumbai in 2009.
Documentaryshooters is honored to have permission to publish Mr. Singh’s work. We feel he has the insights and skills to show India as it is, depicting its greatness and its struggles, its deep and ancient soul as well as its modern and energetic heart. He, as no other photographer has, since, the great Raghu Rai’s seminal work of the 1970’s, ’80’s and 90’s, not only shows India and the sub continent, he makes us feel it.
This is a rock band video based on a magazine article about kidnap victims in Kashmir and those who wait for their return. This is one of India’s most revered bands and was one of India’s all time most popular rock songs.
“Vote,” Selma Voting Rights March, 1965
Sometimes we forget that the “Big Work,” the work that one becomes known for making isn’t all there is.
Bruce Davidson went south, from Chicago, on instinct.
The world was shaking and he felt the vibe.
The time was now: Civil Rights.
Without assignment or specific destination he “nailed it,” and was able to work on the edges of the news, tell the story from a personal and deeply intimate viewpoint.
This image, for me, is one his best. Beautiful composition. Beatiful moment. Beautiful storyline. Iconic and packed with all the elements that make it a novel unto itself, if this was the only photography that existed from the era it was shot in, it would, I think, be enough to tell the story of the struggle.
One word and one image: sometimes it’s enough: Vote.
For More on Bruce Davidson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Davidson_(photographer)
Man selling popcorn at a moulid, Tanta, Egypt, ©Shawn Baldwin
GO TO: http://www.shawnbaldwin.com/
Shawn Baldwin’s photographs of Egypt are lyrical, soft, sometimes tough, nuanced and, mostly, an eye that sees with the heart and feels with the intellect.
This is the kind of documentary that lets its viewers see as if they were there (although you’d have to be looking as hard as he is and putting in your time to get these beautifully done images).
In the end, because these are not screaming and specific, this work let’s us know a place and people without prejudice.
Magnum Photographers Fly The Kite
It can’t all be angst and drum!
Every once in awhile a good shooter has got to have some fun, or, at least, see others having fun.
That’s worth a document, right?
People still having fun?
©2009 Photograph by Mimi Chakarova
This is one of the most painful documentaries I have ever seen.
Even more amazing is the fact that the work is not the slam and splash type of photojournalism that deals in blood, guts and flames.
Displacement. A world wide problem. When the Grid comes you got to move no matter that there is no good place to go to from the bad place you have become accustomed to. It looks the same in Azerbaijan, Mexico DF, Lomas del Poleo, Chicago…wherever.
Rena Effendi takes us into the rarely seen inner Azerbajian, to the mahalla neighborhood in the capitol city of Baku.
This is a photo essay on the lives of the undocumented as they navigate between their homes and their country chosen for work.
In some ways the “landscape,” of this document has changed since it was photographed in the 1990’s. The immigration interdiction efforts by the United States has reduced the number of migrants and, more recently, the lack of jobs in the U.S. due to the faltering economy has reduced it even further. The personal plight for migrants in the U.S. has changed for the worse, making any return to the mother country impossible due to the danger of the return journey.
This document, however, is still quite valid. The existential delemna of home and heart weighed against stomach and uprootedness is ongoing, worldwide and, as this work shows, problematic.
This is an uplifting story of “one man’s willingness to abandon everything – his family, his country, and his friends – in the hopes of finding a better life abroad.”
This Mediastorm produced slide show of Olivier Jobard’s masterful photo essay, follows Kingsley from his home in Cameroon, through Africa and, eventually ending in the land of the “Holt Grail,” Europe.
The journey is not without its dangers and indignities for Kingsley, but another amamzing journey is Jobard’s herself.
East Side Stories/© Joseph Rodriquez
Rodriquez goes where everyone else tries to stay away from: East LA.
This is a strong documentary of the gangs of East LA that goes beyond the dramatic into the intimacy of humans who live in a situation.
Note: Jacob Holdt’s photographs of hate and racism demonstrate the fact that the emphasis in documentary photography is on the word documentary. Sometimes Holdt’s images are a little soft focused or grainy or whatever else one considers technically “flawed(as were Hine’s, Riis’s and every other documentary photographer who was/is worth anything) ,” but, never does his work not deliver the goods: truth simply spoken.
Holdt used this camera
to record over 20,000 images of “hate, racism and “white hate groups.”
He does not consider himself to be a “photographer,” but, rather, an observer, a participator, a witness. Check his site out. It is an incredibly disturbing -and eye opening- view of America. To my mind, Holdt presents a more thorough document than the two year event of Robert Frank and his Guggenheim sponsored “Americans.”
Here is presented Holdt’s Opus: a fairly unknown collection of his massive look at America’s underbelly.
Jacob Holdt’s Vagabond yearsArriving in America with only $40 for a short visit, a young Dane, Jacob Holdt ended up staying over five years, hitchhiking more than 100,000 miles throughout the USA.
GO TO: Menu>Portfolio>Simon Norfolk>Portfolios
This is an arresting and strangely beautiful look at the eerie landscape left by war.
Norfolk, a trained photojournalist, turned away from the live action kind of document and approached the look of war by pointing himself at the aftermath of war as it manifests itself on the landscape. His work from Afghanistan and Iraq tells another story of war and, like all war photography is a combination of destruction, unbelievable moment and twisted beauty.
GO TO: MENU>FEATURES>CURRENT AFFAIRS>IRAN’S YOUTH
This photo essay is of the youth of Iran. Kai Weidenhofer, who is a Middle East specialist gets to the truth of the matter: it’s a small planet, so what’s the big deal?
Here is a quintessential insight into the drive to do documentary photography, a chilling portrayal of the challenges of working within difficult environments and of turning horror into hope. Listen to Jonathan Torgovnik talk about rape, murder and redemption in Rawanda.
Moody, not edgy.
In his words, “It’s kind of hard to put into words what I do.”
A documentary project on Displacement…in the “Heartland!
This photographer shows how “progress,” comes to everywhere and the displacement is not limited to indigenous people either. In the end it is the interests of Capital weighed against the interests of Labor that is the issue of land appropriation and displacement.
Let this documentary speak for itself.
This is one way to approach Documentary. Severely remove all elements of the subject except the subject itself.
Notice that without a background the photographer absolutely controls the statement.
The great Brazilian photographer Sabastio Salgado talks about his work and his career:
This is as eloquent a lecture about the “Why,” of doing documentary photography that you will find. Listen to Natchway. He’s earned the world’s ear: