A Tale of Two El Paso's

This past March, as part of Interstate Magazine’s coverage of Trans Pecos Texas (see parts one and two), I photographed the people and place that is – or was – El Paso, Texas. But that was all before the horrific events of August 3 at the Cielo Vista Walmart changed El Paso forever. What does that mean for the photos from March?

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Trans Pecos, TX

Texas is a big state, the biggest of the Lower 48, covering over a quarter million square miles. From the Gulf of Mexico in the south to the high plains of the north, the Chihuahua Desert in the west to the bayous in the east, Texas wears robes of discordant design. To the farthest west, beyond the Pecos River, is Trans Pecos Texas, the bent elbow of the state. Forming only a part of the whole of Texas, the Trans Pecos defies the basic laws of geometry, seemingly outsizing by itself the whole of Texas combined.

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Capturing the True Person

From identical twins and mere siblings, to cousins first and far removed, to unrelated souls of like lineage, to random pairs of persons, at any point on the spectrum differences both subtle and manifest exist between any two people. One can mount little counter argument here. But what of the single individual? How singular is he? How true is the statement that “John Doe is John Doe”? In truth, it is not – visually, at least.

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Lousiana Highway 1 – Metaphor for America at Large

In many ways, LA 1 reflects all of America beyond it. The route traverses numerous, distinct domains, each Louisianian but each decidedly its own. The inhabitants of the timber and oil environs of the northwest share more in common with their fellow cattle ranchers and oilmen in Texas than they do with the Cajuns inhabiting southern LA 1. The shrimpers of the Gulf share more perhaps, with fellow fishermen working the Gulf in Mississippi and Alabama to the east than they do with the sugar cane and chemical plant workers found midway along LA 1.

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Capturing Place Part 2 - The People of Place

The geography and things of a place form a stage upon which we strut and fret our respective hours. Capturing the details of that stage is important, but if one hopes to convey a full sense of a human place, then capturing the people playing upon that stage is even more important. We must photograph the people to show the place, but who do we photograph and how do we do it?

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Detained in East Saint Louis

East Saint Louis is in Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from the Saint Louis of Gateway Arch fame. It is a deflated, decaying former city, now more vacant than vibrant. Twice I traveled to the city to photograph it. Only once was I detained by police there.

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Capturing Place, Part 1 - The Geography and Things of Place

A photographer is assigned the task to photograph a particular place, be it Louisiana Highway 1 (all 450 miles of it) or the western arrow-head tip of Kentucky, known as the Jackson Purchase, or simply East Saint Louis, a town of 27,000 in a steady state of depression. She grabs her camera bag, drives, parks, and points her camera at . . . what? What does she photograph to adequately capture the “place” she has been assigned to study? The choices of what to shoot – the shot selection – will largely dictate how a later viewer sees the place, both literally and figuratively, and so before a single choice of composition or camera settings is made, shot selection forcibly decides what the resulting narrative will be.

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Identity and the Vastness of America

Interstate Magazine has a clearly articulable goal: to capture the American Identity in photographs. It’s a simple enough premise, but reflect for a moment on the significance of an American identity, and you may be left wondering, in this big country, does such a singular identity exist? Is there an American identity? Interstate Magazine thinks the answer is, in the aggregate, yes, but revealing it is complicated by the shear size and diversity of America. America is vast in both person and place.

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Traveling to Encounter America

America covers more than three million square miles in just its lower 48 states. It is 2,600 miles wide across its mid section. A trip from one side to the other is no ramble to the local supermarket, and a visit to the top from the bottom no breezy day’s outing. Traveling to encounter America is thus no trivial task. So how would one go about doing it?

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ACCURACY, TRUTH AND RESPECT

Interstate Magazine is a photographic journal of American Identity. It exists to photographically show – and in many cases, perhaps, to reintroduce – America to Americans. In so doing, Interstate Magazine hopes to help reverse the dehumanizing effects of contemporary socio-politics. To achieve its goals in a meaningful and lasting way, however, the photographs it publishes must embody Truth, Accuracy, and Respect.

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