“Pecos” is an ongoing exploration of how the dynamic between hard labor and resilience is sustained within communities, specifically in my hometown in West Texas. My research looks into working life, regional culture, economy, and ideas of home in Pecos, a small but shifting desert town. I document how communities joyfully survive and celebrate their lives through food, family, music, dance, and fashion using photography, video, sound, text, and collage.
The work addresses questions of how to understand a rural town in America, and what it means to sensitively represent a place and its people, through portraiture. The images acknowledge intimate moments of families at home, workers and their small businesses, teens riding rodeo horses, couples dancing in night clubs, and the open sky landscape. Images embrace the boredom of a nothing-to-do place and its vastness by exploring personal and collective narratives.
What is important here is my personal investment and connection to Pecos, and that the work I continue to do for the preservation of its people and history is carried out with closeness, consideration and care.
A small yet shifting desert town located in West Texas, Pecos is known for its delicious cantaloupes and claims to be home of the world’s first rodeo. Located on the Permian Basin, it is one of the country’s largest oil and gas producing regions.
Broken beer bottle glass covers the land of dry caliche dirt in my neighborhood. The hot desert climate produces sounds of loud air conditioners and quiet streets. A place that is boring; an empty park and remnants of what was a small zoo my father used to maintain for twenty years. The unexciting town we cruised around bumping tunes from the east side to west in less than ten minutes. Repeat.
A place that is transforming: the small town gossip has changed from who had kids with who to gossip about the frustrating amount of traffic and incoming strangers produced by the oil fields. A place I call home.
But what does it mean to celebrate or represent a community or someone’s life through photography? It’s difficult to depict a place. I can take a beautiful portrait of someone frozen in time, but what does it really say about the person?
I have to ask myself what a picture means outside of it just looking interesting. I allow the subject to be themselves, but each picture forms its own constraints. In the end, it is just a photograph. The subject still lives outside of the frame.
Pecos has always been a place of transition with its oil boom and bust cycles, and I want to make art where the past and present overlap each other. The drive to make this work comes from my desire to integrate ideas of togetherness in this moment in time in visual culture.
“Pecos,” a self published hardcover book, includes a collection of photos taken in the town of Pecos within the span of two years. The cover of the book reflects the Pecos Eagle school system’s two colors, purple and gold, and resembles a yearbook, which is an expression of school spirit. This 86-page book includes portraits of family, friends, friends of friends, and strangers. Some of the images are close and intimate, such as families inside their kitchens and living rooms; strangers and friends at Pecos’ popular bar and club, Freddy’s Ice House; business owners such as my mother’s boss, María, at Taylor Flower Shop; and Claudia Muñoz at her restaurant and ice cream shop, Paleteria Y Dulceria Muñoz.
Other images depict the landscape with its growing number of RV trailer parks due to the oil boom, food trucks in empty five-acre lots that feed the traffic of workers, and neglected neighborhood basketball courts. The images in the book also give subtle hints of the fashion and style of individuals and cultural events, like quinceañeras, the rodeo, and car shows. “Pecos,” the self published zine, is a 42-page edited version of the hardcover book.
I have been making work about Pecos for eight years. It has taken many different shapes and forms, but the work in this place is something that I cannot stop doing or thinking about.
Although my work is undoubtedly regionally specific, there is a thread of solidarity with other left-out places like it across the U.S. My camera work in Pecos is autobiographical. The people and history there matter to me. I’m still learning so much about this place. It’s rich and complex.
There’s only so much I can fit into one photo series or book. I don’t know everything there is to know; so until my curiosity runs dry, I will keep digging.