Marina Monsivias of State of The Arts radio program on KTEP interviews Mark Paulda about his new photography book, “Sí El Paso.” KTEP is an NPR station.
Marina :: “Sí El Paso is a 10th anniversary edition of Mark’s first book, “Celebrating El Paso.” This new book shows how El Paso has changed over the last 10 years and runs a little over 200 pages. It contains El Paso in stories and accounts of the city from a personal viewpoint and shows over 200 photographs of the city and is completely bilingual the book also includes our sister city Ciudad Juárez.
Here to tell us about his latest book is photographer Mark Paulda. Welcome to State of the Arts.
Mark :: Thanks for having me.
Marina :: I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since your other book.
Mark :: It seems like a few months ago. Time just flies by.
Marina :: Right? It’s scary and chronicling everything I mean you’ve definitely seen how things have changed.
Mark :: Yes, exactly. Especially in the downtown area with revitalization and the renovation of some of our treasured buildings. Trost buildings – all very exciting to see that and see them come back to life so it’s been fun looking back at the images that I captured 10 years ago versus what some of the buildings look like today like the Mill’s Building, what’s happening with the Plaza. I could go on and on.
Marina :: I can’t even remember what the Mill’s looked like.
Mark :: It was brown and drab it.
Marina :: It was just like non-existent. It was just there.
Mark :: It was. It was. It really got restored back to its original state and brought it back to life.
Marina :: So did you know when you did the first book that you would do the second book.
Mark :: I didn’t know that there would be another book at all and you know I thought there’s no book on El Paso and so that’s why I did that first book. And it surprised all of us. It surprised me, surprised my publisher it went on to be the fastest selling book for the publishers and of course became a bestseller so that opened the door to the second book and now we’re here at number three and that’s very exciting. I’m very honored to be able to do that. And this book really is a gift back to El Paso. El Paso really has given so much to me and supported me and a lot of the things that I do not only in the city but around the world. I wouldn’t be the person I am without El Paso in my life.
Marina :: It’s cool like that right?
Mark :: It is. We’re different here you know. This book really is the answer, you know, when I travel around people ask me where are you from? I always get that question and when I say El Paso they have this dumbfounded look on their face and and it’s why why El Paso and this is the answer. Here’s our city out here really at the edge of a lot of things. People sort of forget us, even our Great State of Texas forgets us. But the stories that are in the book – I went all across the city and got a variety of people to share their experiences with El Paso and what El Paso means to them and as you read through them it’s very clear why El Paso and they’re very endearing. Some of the stories and the accounts that I was given by the various people, they’re very genuine and sincere and people really do love the city whether they live in the city still or they have moved away. We have stories from both.
Marina :: So how did you find those folks? Did you said okay you know I’d like tocapture the story I’d like to share the story?
Mark :: Some were deliberate people that I knew had a long-term relationship with El Paso and and would have experienced both cities, Juarez and El Paso. When we were younger we would cross the border and go to nightclubs or whatever and you went even if you weren’t of age.
Marina :: There’s something about drink and drown…
Mark :: Exactly and there are some people who it goes back into the 50s and 60s and theyhave stories or stories or some people who had lived in Juarez and they would take the bus and he dropped off downtown near the Newberry building but as I was going out getting photographs like Ballet Folklórico – they’re wonderful people of once I was there and I was photographing them they had stories and they wanted to share them and so I found people that way as well just by chance. So what I wanted was a good representation and I’m a West Sider now and you know I just didn’t want it at a West Side perspective I wanted East the Northeast and we got Juarez stories as well. We got their accounts
Marina :: It’s super important because I think folks that aren’t from here say like oh it’s a small city whatever and if you live here you know Westsiders don’t necessary go to the East side and Eastsiders don’t necessarily go to the Westside. They are these very different parts.
Mark :: They’re unique. So it really was important to get all perspectives. And the stories to me the photographs are nice you know I’m biased I took them but it’s the stories that really touch the heart in this book.
Marina :: Why did you decide to go bilingual?
Mark :: Well our city’s bilingual and it took a bit to convince the publishers to do that. They kept telling me works like that don’t sell. And I said well, this is El Paso, this is how we communicate every day. Our signs are that way we speak that way sometimes we speak Spanglish and actually some of the stories and the quotes in the book are Spanglish and it represents who we are as a city. Really this is what we live with every day.
Marina :: I’m glad you convinced them to do that.
Mark :: Me too and now they’re thrilled and it’s been actually the first photography book that is bilingual so that’s sort of fun as well.
Marina :: I find that hard to believe. Wow!
Mark :: Yeah, so in a way El Paso is leading the way here I guess.
Marina :: Well you you have something to do with that. Aside from the book what other adventures have you been on? Because I know you’re always up to something.
Mark :: Oh my goodness well I do travel around the world. We could spend a lot of time talking about the experiences I’ve had. I went and lived with the nomadic Berber tribe in North Africa and traveled with them from the High Atlas Mountains into the Sahara Desert sand dunes.
Marina :: Did you say excuse me, may I?
Mark :: Well it’s a long story how it all happened. The first time I went to Morocco I met – actually a man found me, he grabbed my arm in the medina and just started talking to me and and ten years later who were still friends as name is Hakim and it’s his tribe and he’s the one who made that happen.
Marina :: So cool
Mark :: And it was just a random meeting and I went with the you know sort of fearless at the time and I’m working with a young man also in Bali. Gede is his name and he’s hugely talented and I met Gede when I wanted authentic Balinese culture not what the tour guides would take us on and so I went to this small village of about 150 people, showed up at the Temple and there was this young man looking at me saying can I help you, you know wondering why are you here and when I when I explained, he welcomed me in it turns out he’s the son of the village leader, he explained everything that was happening with their ceremony. It was a full moon ceremony and so I gave him my camera that day because he told me that his main goal in life was to help preserve Balinese culture and to tell the story of Bali. He was 22 at the time.
Marina :: And he already knew this was important?
Mark :: And I thought, right, and I thought to myself what 22 year old do I know could have such a lofty goal? I didn’t and so I gave him my camera and I said to capture everything you can. I’m leaving to go back to Texas send me photos, video, whatever so I really understand what you want. And months went by and I didn’t hear from him so I said okay I lost a camera. Then one day email after email showed up and there were hundreds of photos, videos and he had written over a hundred pages and I thought okay this young man serious I can i can’t bail now can I so I got him his own camera, a laptop, everything he would need to do this project and I went back to Bali and I taught him everything I knew about photography and it just turns out he is naturally talented. I’m really probably learning from him Gede now and we’re still working on the project. This is five years that we’ve been doing this. His images have been on covers of magazines, he’s had his own exhibitions …
Marina :: That’s incredible
Mark :: One time a year ago January I was at the New York Times Travel Show so I was in New York City and I thought I’m going to the Indonesian consulate because they need to know about Gede and so I showed up and they let me in and I was talking to the number two person at the Indonesian consulate her name is Willa and I told her the story of how we met, what we’ve been doing how talented he is. And she brought in the Consul General so I got to meet him, Abdul, and now the Indonesian consulate uses Gede’s photos and videos throughout the world.
Marina :: That’s so cool just because you said I’m going to go to the Consulate.
Mark :: Right. I am a bit bold that way. What’s the worst anyone can say?
Marina :: The answer is no until you ask
Mark :: That’s right and so it really is remarkable that chance meeting in this small village has turned into this wonderful thing for Gede. He’s very deserving, a very humble young man, very very talented
Marina :: Okay, well we’re almost out of time but you have a book called Si El Paso. So if we want it, how do we get our hands on it.
Mark :: At the moment of course Barnes and Noble, Dorsey’s on the west side. Dorsey’s Cards and Gifts. She’s selling them left and right there. And Amazon has it and we’re working on getting it placed in other retail outlets. The book was late coming out so we’ve had a little challenge getting it placed in others stores. But Dorsey’s, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
Marina :: It’s here in time for the holidays
Mark :: It is. It is and it would make a great gift. We’re hearing that.
Marina :: I think I think you’re right. You’re absolutely right. Today my guest has been photographer, Mark Paulda and he’s got his third book out called “Sí El Paso” and it’s a tenth anniversary edition of this first book called “Celebrating El Paso” You can find the book at Barnes and Noble, Dorsey’s and on Amazon. and I’m sure here shortly you will probably get it all sorts of other places. Today my guest has been Mark Paulda. Thank you for coming to be there.
Mark :: Thank you.