EYE CON­TACT

Pasatiempo - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Bubriski

the beau­ti­ful young woman in Kevin Bubriski’s pho­to­graph, cap­tured look­ing out of a car win­dow in Al­bu­querque, pos­sesses a quiet con­fi­dence. Al­though there’s noth­ing ter­ri­bly dra­matic go­ing on, it’s an ar­rest­ing im­age, and it was a great choice for the cover of his book Look Into My Eyes: Nuevomex­i­canos por Vida, ’81-’83. The vol­ume, just out from Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press, shows 82 pho­to­graphs of North­ern New Mex­ico His­pan­ics ( Nuevomex­i­canos) — some im­ages ob­vi­ously hark­ing back to a cul­tural mo­ment more than three decades past, and some look­ing like they were taken yes­ter­day.

“He is sen­si­tive and open to Nuevo Mex­ico, a world un­like the North­east,” Miguel Gan­dert writes about the Ver­mont pho­tog­ra­pher in the fore­word. “Kevin was re­spect­ful of His­pano New Mex­ico. His feel­ings for this place are re­vealed in the way his sub­jects have ac­cepted him and the in­ti­mate way he has en­tered their world.”

Get a copy of the book or visit the cur­rent Bubriski show at Verve Gallery of Pho­tog­ra­phy, and you’ll no­tice in a few im­ages that the men with their T-shirts and tat­toos ex­hibit an in-your-face bravado. Other men and women are shown just hang­ing out in Al­bu­querque’s San Gabriel Park or nat­u­rally pos­ing, like the two boys hold­ing a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Guadalupe Feast Day or the cou­ple,

Lil Al and An­gel Eyes, re­gard­ing the cam­era in the midst of an af­fec­tion­ate clutch. There are also candids, such as the guy gym­nas­ti­cally an­gling for a quick kiss at the 1983 New Mex­ico Lowrider Car Show and Dance and a small group of older men rest­ing near a pile of fire­wood at the 1981 El Rito Fi­esta. The faces are al­ways strik­ing.

It is ev­i­dent that Bubriski was trusted by his sub­jects. In an ac­count he gives of a New Year’s Eve at Al­bu­querque’s La Bamba Club, we can guess that he may have been just an­other guy who turned up to lis­ten to Al “Hur­ri­cane” Sánchez play. “Well, as a pho­tog­ra­pher, you’re the out­sider, even though you’re in the middle of ev­ery­thing,” he said in an in­ter­view from Ver­mont, where he lives and teaches pho­tog­ra­phy and doc­u­men­tary stud­ies at Green Moun­tain Col­lege. “Some­times pho­tog­ra­phy is my pri­or­ity, and I make sure I’m where I get the pic­tures. But you are some­one with a cam­era. It be­comes part of who you are, like an old, com­fort­able coat, and ev­ery­body knows that’s you.

“I was shoot­ing with a Le­ica Rangefinder cam­era, which is very quiet and un­ob­tru­sive, and it was al­ways with me. Now the iPhone is al­ways with me. If I’m work­ing for some­body or do­ing a longer-term pro­ject for my­self, I use the big, heavy DSLR [dig­i­tal sin­gle­lens-re­flex cam­era]. But just this morn­ing [Su­per Tues­day] I took pic­tures with the iPhone at the polling sta­tion when I went to vote.”

Bubriski first used a cam­era in high school in northwest Mas­sachusetts, al­though his first se­ri­ous port­fo­lio came out of his Peace Corps ser­vice in Nepal. He came to Santa Fe in 1981 to study at the An­thro­pol­ogy Film Cen­ter that used to be on Up­per Canyon Road. With the cen­ter’s Car­roll and Joan Wil­liams, he stud­ied doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ing and 16 mm cam­eras. At a cer­tain point he re­al­ized that the fundrais­ing nec­es­sary to make movies wasn’t his strong suit. And he be­came en­er­gized at the im­me­di­acy of us­ing a 35 mm cam­era. He would at­tend as many fi­es­tas, religious cel­e­bra­tions, and pa­rades as he

could. “Af­ter I was at the An­thro­pol­ogy Film Cen­ter, I ended up be­ing the per­son who would fill in when [pho­tog­ra­pher] Bar­bara Ellen Koch would go on va­ca­tion, so I ac­tu­ally worked at the New Mex­i­can off and on, and I re­ally en­joyed that.”

In those days he was shoot­ing Tri-X with a small cam­era, but he re­mem­bers that he bought a 4x5 field- t ype view cam­era at The Cam­era Shop on San Fran­cisco Street and would take field trips with pho­tog­ra­phers Wal­ter Nelson, Ray Belcher, and Doug Keyes. At the end of the sum­mer of 1982, he moved to Al­bu­querque and spent most of the next year work­ing full-time for the semi­weekly New Mex­ico Sun news­pa­per. Busy with as­sign­ments, he be­came fa­mil­iar with all of Al­bu­querque’s neigh­bor­hoods, and he started tak­ing pic­tures of his own around San Gabriel Park, a fa­vorite hang­out for young peo­ple. Look Into

My Eyes fi­nally presents a se­lec­tion that was cu­rated by Mar­i­lyn Gar­cía in 1983.

Bubriski, who has pho­tographed ex­ten­sively in the United States and around the world for 30 years, also har­vested im­ages from some of his old­est work when he pub­lished Kevin Bubriski: Nepal 1975-2011 (with Ra­dius Books and Pe­abody Mu­seum Press) two years ago. “The first 50 im­ages are from right out of col­lege,” he said. The pho­tog­ra­pher’s first one-man ex­hi­bi­tion was back in 1981 at Ni­cholas Pot­ter Book­seller, when it was lo­cated at 203 E. Palace Ave. To­day his work is in the col­lec­tions of the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art and In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter of Pho­tog­ra­phy in New York and the Cen­ter for Cre­ative Pho­tog­ra­phy in Tuc­son, among other in­sti­tu­tions.

The list of grants and fel­low­ships Bubriski has won over the years in­cludes a Has­sel­blad Masters Award in 2004. Has­sel­blad is known for its jewel-like, ex­pen­sive, medium-for­mat cam­eras, but Bubriski has com­posed mem­o­rable im­ages on a great range of in­stru­ments. “I started off with a 35 mm Mi­randa Sen­sorex, then I had an Olym­pus, and then the Le­ica. When I was in the news world, I used Nikons. In 1987 I was help­ing John Gruen, who was a very fas­tid­i­ous im­age maker and prin­ter, clean out his stu­dio in New York, and he of­fered me a Rollei­flex TLR for $100 cash. The next day it was mine, and when I went back to Nepal in 1987, I took it with me and it took beau­ti­ful im­ages. I used Has­sel­blads in the early 1990s, but the Rollei­flex was spe­cial. It was so quiet and so pre­cise.”

He made the switch from film (ana­log) tech­nol­ogy to dig­i­tal cam­eras — “I kind of tip­toed into it” — in the early 2000s. “I’ve used a Canon 5D Mark II dig­i­tal SLR for five years, but I was shoot­ing with Tri-X 120 film and a Has­sel­blad right up to 2012. That was Colum­bus Day week­end in New York, and I was pho­tograph­ing Oc­cupy Wall Street. That was my last piece of ana­log.”

The peo­ple and land­scape of Nepal have been a con­tin­u­ing in­ter­est of Bubriski’s ever since the Peace Corps. He was there last sum­mer and again in Novem­ber. The changes dur­ing his long ac­quain­tance are pro­found. “It is unimag­in­able what has hap­pened since I was first there more than four decades ago. For one, there are count­less young, quite bril­liant Nepali pho­tog­ra­phers right now. They are cov­er­ing Nepal, and a lot of them are as­so­ci­ated with in­ter­na­tional agen­cies. The ur­ban­iza­tion of the Kath­mandu Val­ley is in­cred­i­ble and the out­mi­gra­tion, es­pe­cially dur­ing the civil war from 1996 to 2006, shook up com­mu­ni­ties and broke cul­tural fab­ric, and then the earth­quakes [of April and May 2015, which killed

thou­sands] have fur­ther shat­tered the sus­tain­abil­ity of re­mote moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties.”

He knows less about the de­tails of change in the Latino com­mu­nity we see in Look Into My Eyes. “I haven’t been around Al­bu­querque much since the 1980s, but I think the lowrider car cul­ture is alive and well, not just in New Mex­ico and south­ern Cal­i­for­nia but in Latin Amer­ica and Ja­pan. And Ha­vana, oh my gosh, th­ese guys with fe­do­ras and 1950s Chevys and Stude­bak­ers are just very much part of the Ha­vana cul­ture.”

Bubriski cited an im­por­tant fan of the new book. “My daugh­ter, who is twenty-nine, feels this work is the best ever that her dad has done. She just loves the pho­to­graphs and loves ev­ery­body in them, and I think if that’s what this book can do — give peo­ple a sense of con­nec­tion with the peo­ple in the pho­to­graphs — that’s what it’s about. That’s what do­ing doc­u­men­tary work and what sto­ry­telling is all about.”

KEVIN BUBRISKI WAS RE­SPECT­FUL OF HIS­PANO NEW MEX­ICO. HIS FEEL­INGS FOR THIS PLACE ARE RE­VEALED IN THE WAY HIS SUB­JECTS HAVE AC­CEPTED HIM AND THE IN­TI­MATE WAY HE HAS EN­TERED THEIR WORLD. — Miguel Gan­dert, fore­word, Look Into My Eyes

KEVIN BUBRISKI

All im­ages cour­tesy Mue­sum of New Mex­ico Press

Kevin Bubriski: above, Chi­mayó Fi­esta Pa­rade, 1982; top cen­ter, El Rito Fi­esta, 1981; op­po­site page, New Mex­ico State Fair, Al­bu­querque, 1982

Above, Santa Fe, Car­ni­val, 1982; right, San Gabriel Park, Al­bu­querque, 1983;

op­po­site page, Lowrider Bik­ers, Chi­mayó Fi­esta Pa­rade, 1982

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