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 The structure of the Funklands, textured, bold, spectacular, has been replaced by franchised plastic, flatness, sameness.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.
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.