Russell Lee and his Speed Graphic, circa 1930’s
This is a web site devoted to the travels and photographs of the photographer Russell Lee and was developed by Berman and Dr. Mary Lamonica. The site is the creation of writer and photographer Bruce Berman. It was funded by a grant from New Mexico State University where both Berman and Dr. Lamonica are colleagues in the Department of Journalism/Mass Communication.
Mary Lamonica has written on the history of women and minorities in journalism and is well known in the world of history, and has published numerous articles in many well know Journals. Bruce Berman is a long time documentary photographer, well known for his work on the U.S./Mexico Border, specifically the teeming barrios of Juarez and El Paso. He is a former New York Times photographer and has worked for major international publications for the past three decades.
After many preliminary conversations, the initial investigation into the New Mexico of Russell Lee commenced in the 2009 when Dr. Lamonica traveled the western section of Highway 60 through Magdalena, New Mexico, Pie Town, and beyond–the places where Russell Lee lived, worked and documented in the mid 1930’s.
The Russell Lee Road Project began after Bruce Berman made several initial forays into New Mexico in December 2009. He traveled to Magdalena and Pie Town, both west central New Mexico towns and then, after realizing this was the road that Lee traveled frequently in the 1930s, he came up with the concept of using the road as a blank canvas, filling it in as he traveled along it. As he did in the summer of 2010, he began to understand that the project was essentially about exploring the ghost of Lee and the roads he traveled during his projects for the Farm Security Administration (a branch of the W.P.A.), and using this legendary past as a launching board to an examination of the New Mexico -and America- of contemporary times.
Berman started prowling these roads and finally decided that Russell Lee’s journey in New Mexico frequently was undertaken on U.S. Highway 60, a road that traverses the central part of the state horizontally from the border with Arizona in the west to the border of Texas in the east.
Berman immersed himself in “Russell Lee’s Road,” shooting what he found and paying particular attention to the working people of this rural New Mexico land. Lamonica, in the meantime, conducted research into Lee’s work and his past and has produced journal articles for various academic publications. Berman works independently of Lee, using his own 40 year’s of experience as a documentary photography, shooting in his own well-developed style, searching for the essential “Lee-land,” but, as he always does, searching for himself in the people and places he visits.
The resulting project–Russell Lee’s Road–is a blend of history and contemporary exploration; a fusion of the images and words of Russell Lee, combined with Berman’s own insights and images.
Phase One of the RLR project has resulted in this site. The site aspires to reveal new and insightful detail about Lee’s intent and hopes to encourage viewers to look at Lee’s photographs, not just for their social content, but for their aesthetic qualities as well.
There is a lot more road to follow.
Here is Russell Lee’s Road in New Mexico, enjoy the ride.