An associate professor in New Mexico State University’s Journalism Department recently published a book compiling photographs and stories he’s taken of Juárez and the border over the course of more than 40 years.
Before Bruce Berman entered academia, he worked on assignment as a freelance photojournalist/photographer for newspapers, magazines, advertising agencies and corporations. Berman has worked the border beat since 1982, principally as a contractor for The New York Times.
His specialty has been documenting the U.S./Mexico border. He lives three blocks from the International Bridge that connects Juárez and El Paso.
Berman has been described as a “concerned photographer,” which photographer and founder of New York City’s International Center of Photography Cornell Capa defined as “photographers who demonstrated in their work a humanitarian impulse to use pictures to educate and change the world, not just to record it.” The border/Juárez community provides Berman ample material.
“It’s another world,” he said. “The people in these stories and images are real.”
Berman said the book, ‘Walking Juarez,’ “is not about how horrible Juárez is.”
“The book is about sweet epiphanies and little insights,” he said. “If you’re in deep enough in a culture, eventually it shares its heart with you.”
Berman said there is no theme to the book, but rather is an ongoing narrative that includes stories of how Berman finds the subjects in his photographs, as well as anecdotes about these people.
The spirit of the book can be summed up in a paragraph from the book: “In the end Berman’s search to give face to the border leads him to the realization that it is he who gained face through his encounters while walking in Juárez.”
Berman didn’t intend to write a book about Juárez But in until December 2016, as he began a sabbatical research leave, due to illness, his mobility was limited for four months.
“So what do you do if you can’t walk?” he asked. “Write a book!”
After three months, and recovered, he started working on the streets again and added new images to his multi-decade project, and brought the book to a conclusion.
The oldest photos in the book are from 1972, while the most recent photos are from 2017. All photographs are black and white.
“The most important thing to remember about black-and-white photography is you need a strong subject,” he said. “With color photographs, you can grab someone’s attention with the color alone. With black and white, it’s the power of the subject that holds the viewer’s attention.”
The book was published in June 2017.
Berman has created a publishing company – Border Blog Press – and learned all aspects of publishing from design to marketing. He intends to concentrate on publishing books that are ‘border-themed.’
‘Walking Juarez’ is available on Amazon, in selected bookstores (like Barnes and Noble) and can be purchased directly from him.
Author: Billy Huntsman – NMSU