This article about “Sí El Paso” first appeared in The City Magazine El Paso. The article is written by Austin North.
“El Paso is a feeling,” said photographer Mark Paulda. His new photo book “Sí El Paso”, the third in a series showcasing El Paso, exemplifies that feeling – it features a plethora of gorgeous photos of the city and its surrounding landscape, supplemented with excerpts of many individual El Pasoans’ experiences of the culture. Mark initially released his book titled “Celebrating El Paso” ten years ago – it was a huge success, quickly becoming a best seller and selling out with three months. Mark said, “with the first book, “Celebrating El Paso,” I was actually still learning – quite honestly I had no business doing a book at that time. Lo and behold, it became the fastest selling book for my publisher, TCU Press.”
Mark is humble about his beginnings, stressing that he was still learning throughout these past ten years. He went to exceptional lengths to study photography – Mark said of the inception of the first book, “I had just returned from London where I had learned from some of the best photographers in Europe. I had to come back to El Paso, but I was still learning and finding my way.” He reached out to acclaimed European photographers and studied under three of them – “one is a very accomplished Israeli photographer, one was a photographer for Vogue magazine and one has shot some of the most iconic, classic album covers …It was through them that I recognized that I could turn this into a viable business,” he said.
He has used this training to further his skills and career in photography, and his newest book, “Sí El Paso” is a prime example. Featuring stunning photographs of our city, Mark said of the book, “The way that I view the city though a camera, and then recognize the really important parts that make up our city – I think you that in the new book. Not only have I matured as a photographer, but the city has matured as well.” He’s right emphasizing the revitalization of downtown especially. He believed ten years ago that El Paso deserved a photography book, after not having found one throughout his travels. The landscape and architecture photography especially are such a unique talking point within the city and Mark felt that El Pasoans would be proud to be able to show off their hometown through these books.
“Photos are nice, but I think the stories make the new book,” Mark said of “Sí El Paso”. Within the pages, you’ll find countless passages and stories from El Pasoans – both native and those who have moved here – describing their experience of the city. It’s a well-known concept that El Paso, despite being a large city, has a small-town mentality and feel. This can be observed throughout the book – look through it and you’re sure to find names you recognize in the stories. “What I wanted to do with the stories is give people a good sense of what El Paso really is and who we are.” The people who contributed the stories give their personal accounts of their experiences growing up in or moving to El Paso and the stories they share are genuinely insightful and often moving. Mark explained that the bilingual culture is something that he focuses on and appreciates, and as such, many of the stories in the book are in Spanish as well. He said, “It being bilingual is important because the city is that way. Some of the writing is even in Spanglish, like we hear regularly here.”
In terms of success, Mark has found plenty both in and out of El Paso. His previous two books were sent to household names who, “bought a whole bunch of books to send to their friends outside El Paso. They wanted people to know who and what we were.” Another demographic that he has found success in is people who had moved away but still want a piece of El Paso. “They want to be able to look at something and say that we’re just as worthy of a book as anywhere else.” Ultimately, Mark wants to answer the question of “Why El Paso?” Whether it’s out of town football teams at the Sun Bowl or uninformed politicians and celebrities, people always ask why. “This is sort of an answer to that question. To show that we really are a special place.”