AK TEEN

Appolino

Appollino, 16, Sandinista Home Guard soldier,

Jinotega Province, Nicaragua, 1987

Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

Appolino was 16 in 1987. His parents had died during the revolution.

In 1987 the old National Guard of Somoza was huddled just north of Jinotega Province, in Honduras, fighting with and being trained by the United States military, both Army, National Guard and elements of the CIA and other agencies. If you arrived in Nicaragua by airplane, it emptied out in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and most of the people getting off that airplane were anglo, in their thirties and forties, with short haircuts and heavy bags that looked like they carried more than clothes.

So, there was Appollino, with his Chinese-made AK 47, standing guard, in his country, awaiting nightfall, ready to defend his home and family, i.e. his country.

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RELIC #3/ICE TRUCK IN JUAREZ

Juarez Ice truck, 1975

Ice truck, Juarez, 1975

1975.

Ice trucks up and down Avenida Juárez.

Same routine every day.

Go to the municipal ice plant, over by the railroad, buy ice, get it on the truck, head to your customers, mostly saloons.

Get the day’s orders.

A half block will usually do.

Get it inside, let the baristas chip it down to cooler-size.

The runoff gutters around the base of the bar take the ice melt away.

Good to go.

All the ice trucks eventually die from a fatal combination of age and rust.

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LAST OF THE LAST

Last Days of the aLast Days, Globe Mills and traffic, El Paso, October 2015 Interstate 10 (I1Last days of the last days, Globe Mills

and I10, El Paso, October 2015,

photograph by Bruce Berman

____________________

“I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Oh, oh, have a!
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
You know you got it if it makes you feel good,
Oh, yes indeed.

You’re out on the streets looking good,
And baby deep down in your heart I guess you know that it ain’t right…”

-Janis Joplin

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RANCHO BOOTS IN JUAREZ

Rancho Boots, Juárez, 2009

Rancho Boots (from the book Juárez), Juárez, 2009

Photographs and text by Bruce Berman

Every once in awhile you have to just throw yourself on the ground and go for it. Sometimes it’s worth it. This was worth it. My eyes needed it.

Juárez is changing. It’s good. People are dancing in the streets. The Cartel is receding into memory. Juárez has always had its own style, its own punch, it’s little kick in the gut that reminds you you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Juárez is the center of the world of nowheresville.

I bow to it.

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Relic #40: Hatch, New Mexico

Relic#39: Hatch, New MexicoRelic #40, Hatch, New Mexico

Commentary and photograph by Bruce Berman

What was is going.

What was the recent past is now becoming the debris of now, eroding into the dust or waiting for the two hour demolition wrecker to come and sweep it away, laying waste to the last of the industrial age, smoothing a pad or a field to a bald table upon which will be laid The Grid.

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RELIC #39

Relic#39_HatchNM

Relic #39, New Mexico, April 2016
Commentary by Bruce Berman

The Relics of Light and Shadow series is an ongoing project since 2010.

From the very beginning of my life in photography I’ve always spent a lot of time “out there,” in the backlands of America. One of my first published pieces (October 1969)  was for the Christian Science Monitor (I was their Midwest photographer, based out of Chicago, from 1969 thru 1973). It was a piece  I did on the coming of  the fallow harvest times of the Midwest, showing images of the solitude that comes with the coming of winter, locking down hearth and home, the time when “it,” the harsh wintertime, is coming and all you can do is get yourself ready for “it.”

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SOLDADERAS/WOMEN SOLDIERS

Maria Gonzalez and soldaderas.
Maria Gonzalez and soldaderas, Photograph from the Runyon Collection/Library of Congress

 

This photograph was taken during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), exact date unkown.The photograph was taken by commercial photographer Robert Runyon (1881-1968), a longtime resident of South Texas. His photographs document the history and development of South Texas and the border, including the Mexican Revolution, the U.S. military presence at Fort Brown and along the border prior to and during World War I, and the growth and development of the Rio Grande Valley.

This image was shot on a glass-plate negative ; 5×7 in. Camera unknown.

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MEMORIAL

ASARCO #212, May 2012. Photograph
©BruceBerman 2015

 

Photograph and text by Bruce Berman

I miss you ASARCO.

You were texture. You were identity. You were muy macho. You had cajones. Your candy stripe shaft spewed your acids and we ran for cover. At least we were moving. You were not vanilla. You were not something else. You were, well, ASARCO, un madre. You were definitely not bourgeois, pro seguroOn dark nights, down on Paisano, huge trucks dumped your excrement and giant flames roared into the sky, lighting up I10 like a festive firecracker.

Now you are a bald pallet awaiting “The Grid.” They fiddle before they drop the hammer, just enough time for one to build trust in the untrustworthy. What should go on the ground that has your blood? Should it be a Western Town? Giddy up! Should it be an amusement park? Ice cream! Maybe it could be a “multi use” nothing (Ha! What else do you think they will do!)? We need more apartments and strip centers! Maybe we can just let UTEP spread its, its…well…it could just spread whatever it is that UTEP has.

I will politely clap. I am not lamenting the inevitable any more than I do on The Day Of the Dead.

Yes you were a cancer dispenser, a reminder of danger, vulnerability and of the sweat and blood of working men. Oh yeah, you were one bad hombre. Oh, and how the gerentes avoided your gaze. You were so not sheik. How could we sell this bipolar berg as the cultural and artistic epicenter of the great southwest with your giant schlong sticking into the sky, having intercourse with the eyes of every passerby? No no no, you had to go. You were so, well, nasty!

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MAD MEN: END OF THE INNOCENCE

 

50’s Merc. Photograph ©BruceBerman2015

Mad Men, the 50s and the Waiting

Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

Mad as in nutty mad…mad because they were delirious with the defiance of convention while simultaneously becoming the masters of the Establishment (and remain so, truly understanding what motivates consumers -and that became all of us- and then getting them to consume), mad because they were about to be jetting and tail-finning and mini-skirting and drinking and potting and pushing every moral convention ever taught and/or learned out the back door into what became the waste dump of the 60s. They were insane with the possibilities and not burdened by the weight of the previous two generations (The Great One of the Depression and the War). They were mad and intoxicated and wild, like their cars, huge, with unlimited horsepower, design that was plastic and chrome and sweeping, made with materials never heard of before. Theory knew no limits. Everyone felt a little “illegal,” yet, invited to the table. Being ecclectic was safe. Just keep consuming, it’ll all be all right. Yes, they were nutty mad and flew high, never thinking there could be a landing, mad with the waiting for the coming fall, the doubt, the emptiness, the great Genericide, ergo, The End Of The Innocence (Don Henley). They became us. Post Mad. The masters of data, overthink, and, compliance.

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UNDEFINED PERSONALITIES AND THE BRIDGE

 

Screen-Shot-2015-04-30-at-3.15

Text and Photo by Bruce Berman

 

No telling what and who will come over the Cordoba bridge that links El Paso, Texas with its sister city Juárez, Chihuahua.

In this case, crossing from south to north, was Spencer.

Pipe, a hat that said “F___ Off,” aged Doc Marten’s, punk rock labels every where,  he is as ecclectic as the border. In a strange way he, is the border: neither this or that, neither Mexican or American, neither barrier nor passageway.

A friend once called the border a metaphor for a person who has “an undefined personality.”

Looking at Spencer -and some others (in my mirror!)- I’m thinking it’s a place for very defined personalities.

The problem is that it’s really difficult to say exactly what they are.

Which brings us back to “undefined.”

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THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SHOE PAINTER

 

Juárez Shoe Man
Man in the Plaza Reforma, Juárez. 2014. Photograph ©BruceBerman2014

Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

This man is a shoe decorator. He paints designs on shoes and then the shoes are sold in nearby stores, The faster he can paint the more money he can earn. The fumes from the permanent paint are toxic and the shoe man swigs from his Coca Cola constantly.

The economy of Juárez is purely entrepreneurial capitalism and there are many one-man “businessmen” in the Plaza Reforma which has become the new heart of El Centro. The recent Cartel War saw the exodus of much of Juárez’ middle class and along with them the businesses they owned and maintained. Much of Juárez that butts against the border south of the Cordova/Paso del Norte bridge has now been razed in anticipation of a massive redevelopment.

As the new Juárez rises so has the need to create one’s own business.

 capitalism.

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The Old New Juarez

Juarez Loteria
Loteria de Juarez. Photograph ©BruceBerman2013

The New Juarez.

Everyone is talking about it. A new day, full of new promise. Many acquaintances tell me about all the new bars and cantinas. That Juarez will rise again.

This morning, Easter morning, two bodies were found hanging from a bridge in central Juarez. The victims were young, scruffy, boys with no names.

Hanging, like crucifixion, is a public and humiliating death. A death after death, the person shamed, rendered helpless, publicly. This is death with a message.

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