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.
This neighborhood is, at least, 50% Black and all low income, mostly large and old apartment complexes (1960s). As a journalist, I wondered why. I am now working in the neighborhood, getting its name and its stories.
I want to tell its story. That is what I want from photography. From the beginning I have hoped photography would be my instrument for telling the stories that intrigue me and that I think some people would be interested in knowing.
But I digress.
It is the “normal” state of affairs that one’s best photographs come either as an accident or as a “side bar,” gotten when you were chasing something else.
I have driven under this pedestrian overpass on highway U.S.54 thousands of times. Once in awhile I would see school children walking it in the daytime. This evening, in pursuit of my unending quest to photograph everything in this city, I found that this bridge goes from a school on the other side of the expressway, to this so far unknown by me neighborhood.
It’s a neighborhood with a bridge to somewhere I do not know and, I suspect most people who pass through here, do not know.
As I write this I am reminded, once again, how really inefficient words are when trying to describe a photograph. Talking about it in terms of the mechanics of how it was made doesn’t describe it. Spoken explanations seem lame. Why do you need words if the photo’s language is already describing it for you?
Photography isn’t a footnote to the verbal language. It’s its own language and more people consume it than do they consume words. Yet, why –exactly why– it does inform us so directly and emotionally, is somewhat of a mystery.
What do I call a photograph that works for me, that I feel is complete, that makes me feel just an observer of the photo, completely unable to explain it or describe it?
I call it magic.
I think I will never have a better explanation.