Nor­man Mauskopf,

Pasatiempo - - North­ern Lights -

At one point, he even got stranded on a high­way by a pack of sheep that non­cha­lantly stalled cars as they crossed the black­top, sev­eral dozen deep. “For me to be al­lowed in, that’s one of the joys of be­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher,” Mauskopf said.

North­ern New Mex­ico can be a sad land marked by vi­o­lence and familial cir­cles of drug ad­dic­tion. The prob­lem is com­pounded by decades of neg­a­tive press cov­er­age that threat­ens to blot out any pos­i­tive de­pic­tions of the re­gion’s art, cul­ture, and fam­ily tra­di­tions. “I stayed away from the pris­ons,” Mauskopf said. “There are things that peo­ple dwell upon.” In­stead, he wisely chose a soft fo­cus on the re­gion’s trou­bles, tak­ing pho­tos of the ar­ti­facts of vi­o­lence — a cross cov­ered in me­mo­rial pho­tos nailed to a cot­ton­wood, a help poster seek­ing info on the mur­der of a fam­ily mem­ber.

Any ver­bal con­text that Mauskopf’s pho­tos need is ably pro­vided by “Singing at the Gates,” a sprawl­ing poem by Jimmy San­ti­ago Baca, which ap­pears at the end of the book. Baca is a Chi­cano poet and screen­writer who has been writ­ing about New Mex­ico barrios for sev­eral decades. Mauskopf said that Baca agreed to write the poem af­ter look­ing at hun­dreds of his pho­tos, many of which never made their way to the book. In the free-flow­ing, Whit­manesque lines of his poem, Baca cre­ates an al­ter­nate his­tory of North­ern New Mex­ico. “Gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion / La Raza’s peo­ple-priest wears a ban­dana,/ sta­tions himself among la gente, rat­tling our tam­bourines./ wear­ing our Mat­a­chine mask,/ from an­cient ninety year old abueli­tas / who make who we are burn bright, un­fold and rum­ble deep.”

The book is the work of an in­sider poet look­ing out­ward and an out­sider pho­tog­ra­pher gain­ing enough re­spect to be let in. The blend of Mauskopf’s and Baca’s vi­sions of North­ern New Mex­ico is fa­mil­iar and yet un­like any­one else’s. Mauskopf says that he works in the doc­u­men­tary tra­di­tion, but the last thing he wants is for any­body to con­sider this book any sort of de­fin­i­tive ac­count of the re­gion. Cit­ing the words of pho­tog­ra­pher Richard Ave­don, Mauskopf said that he be­lieves that “all photographs are ac­cu­rate; none of them are the truth.”

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