New Mexico Photographer Michael Berman | NMPBS ¡Colores!

New Mexico Photographer Michael Berman | NMPBS ¡Colores!

January 16, 2020 1 By Peter Engel


♪ ♪ HOW DOES ONE SEE WHAT IS THERE? ♪ ♪>>Michael Berman: The first day my mind is
like a jumping bean on a hot pan. What I’m going to do. What I’m going to see. What I. What I. In a few days, I settle down into a routine. Get up hours before sunrise. Walk and photograph into dark. In a week I am lonely. I wish I had someone to talk with. In two weeks, I talk with myself. In three weeks, I see things differently. ♫♫>>Berman: Sometimes we look for things that are the realm of maybe dreams and magic, but
that are beyond our normal every day, and Sierra San Luis is kind of the crossroads
of both. It’s this understated little mountain range
that has somehow always been at the center of things and is where I ended up on after
a long journey of trying to find some vestige of a wild place along the border. ♫♫>>Berman: The border lands are where things happen and the reason for that is they’re
unsettled and unsettled works both ways. I think they’re emotionally unsettled. Oftentimes when I go to the borderlands I’m
just not in the right place and it’s like oh, you know, kind of feel a little edgy,
kind of feel it’s a little dangerous, stuffs happening here. And where am I going to sleep? What’s going to happen? But literally, they’re unsettled, they’re
some of the least populated landscapes in both Mexico and America and that actually
is the reason why the border is there. It’s the hardest place to be. You know, part of it is the Rio Grande where
it’s forming these canyons and part of it is that it is these desert lands where water
is a premium and it’s the space that’s much harder to navigate. These are the landscapes that are all around
us but that we often don’t see. ♫♫>>Berman: Part of what I’m wound up in is, is that initial discovery and learning. So it may be more about learning to see than
seeing that interests me. Something like the Sierra San Luis is that
it’s, it’s a tale that’s not yet told. It’s what it’ll be in the future still in
flux. The Sierra Madres and the Rocky Mountains
begin and end there. Both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert – one
side is the Sonoran Desert, the other side’s Chihuahua. All these things are coming together within
the mountains. ♫♫>>Berman: One of the things in making photographs now is, the relationship is much more fluid
so I’m able to carry a smaller camera that literally I just strap it right here on my
chest and I’m often just making photographs as one would, this is interesting to look
at. Sometimes I do apply an editorial that I’ve
learned, like oh, this would make a good photograph. But there are reasons you make photographs
and one is to share experiences, with friends is something we do. I had an old friend from high school who has
on occasion has come out to visit me and I’ve taken him into the woods. I’ve left him alone in the dark and scared
the wits out of him so, I sent him like six photographs of this landscape that I’m working
in and at the end I showed this head of this animal – it’s kind of dried out with these
beautiful white large canines and I told him it was a werewolf and he actually believed
me and I got an email that said, “Tell me this isn’t true,” and he was totally freaked
out. “No, no, no, it’s just a bear.” He was just like, “Michael’s a crazy guy
and if anyone’s going to see a werewolf and find them, it’s him. ♫♫>>Berman: Something that I don’t do as much of really, is that thing; when you step back
and look at the landscape. You, you get perspective. I often forget to do that because that’s not
how you walk through a landscape. You’re not looking around, “Oh what a beautiful
mountains.” You’re like, “I don’t want to step on… I don’t want to step on a cactus… I don’t want to step on a snake. So often I think my photographs are inclined
to reflect like, looking at the ground, is really the first and foremost thing. But there is something more formal for me
about stepping back and, and what is this place. I know what I’m looking for is a healthy ecosystem. It’s that simple. And it’s the thing I can never find. ♫♫>>Berman: In the center of the Sierra San Luis is a grass and scrub oak kind of forest
and then it’s surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains and it’s probably the best wolf
habitat I’ve ever seen. In my experience, you know I’ve seen them
there and they’ve tried to bring them back and they’re rumors that they may exist but
at the same time people I’m friends with have shot and killed the wolves so it’s a complicated
world out there and you have to learn to be part of that. The photograph is the tool I’m using to connect
me to the landscape. ♫♫>>Berman: Often the things that are most important to us don’t exist in the structure of conscious
thought where you’re doing something like what language does. Where you go from one idea to another idea
in a coherent way. So what’s nascent within the work it’s really,
this thing I don’t understand. When you begin to bring words or images to
something, a lot of traditions have that idea, is you steal the spirit, but yet it’s one
of the ways we communicate and I’ve chosen to embrace this. So, it is that realm of catch-22. Is that you want to tell other people, you
know, like what’s in these photographs. It’s the ineffable. It’s the thing, I can never see it’s the thing,
I can never speak to. I’m talking about the way humans see these
landscapes and these you know these landscapes are inhabited by a broad spectrum of life
and we’re only one little part of that. How do you see what’s there? ♫♫