All photos by Bruce Berman AFTERWORD I BY DAVID ROMO Smack Me in the Mouth If You Want To “Coming back from assignments and private wanderings, I have seen uncountable acts of kindness, unlimited doses of hope and optimism and pure faith. I have always left those ‘little slums’ a rich man. Like someone had rammed gold into my pockets.” Bruce Berman Ile miras? In certain parts of the border you will occasionally be asked this question especially if you look at someone the wrong way. What are you looking at? Bruce Berman has been asked that question a few times during his photographic excursions in El Paso and Juarez. For the past 30 years Berman has been wandering and taking pictures in precisely the kind of places where the inquisitive gaze of an outsider might provoke suspicion. Like Alameda Avenue, for instance, one of Berman’s favorite haunts, not far from where he’s set up his pad and studio inside the Old Brewery building. The street is filled with Tex-Mex dives like the Nebraska Club or El Escandalo where the ranchero house band plays narco-corridos while men in cowboy boots wearing lots of gold jewelryand an occasional handgun clipped to their beltshoot pool. It’s not the kind of place you want to be caught staring at anyone. At least not anyone of the same sex. You would also expect that the pepenadores, the men, women and children who scavenge at the Juarez dump, not far from the plot of desert where bodies of murdered women have recently turned up, would want to know why a gabacho from the other side of the line is aiming his Nikon 8008 at them. Or the Segundo Barrio vato captured by Berman’s lens as he’s busted, or as they say in barrio slang, torcido, twisted by the law. You can read the question in his eyes: iQue miras, giiey? Fronterizos haven’t always been wrong to distrust photographers. Photojournalistsor “parachutists” as some here call themhave a long history of dropping in from high places and taking a few marketable, often highly unflattering snapshots of the wild, wild border before they fly back home. Bruce Berman not only understands this lack of trust but has suffered some of its consequences ever since he started freelancing for Chicago newspapers in the ’60s. He’s been chased, punched, and shot at while taking pictures of 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 24, 2006
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