dominic bracco II – my republic

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2013 Shortlist

 

Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls
ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

EPF 2013 shortlist

Dominic Bracco II

My Republic

play this essay

 

My Republic is a personal exploration of the South Texas border region where I was raised.

The Republica Del Rio Grande lasted only a year. The new nation’s commanders were executed by Mexican troops, (one of which was a distant – ok very distant relative,) and their legacy was largely forgotten. Turmoil didn’t end with the fall of the Republic. The Nueces Strip, South Texas, whatever you might want to call it, has always been a place in conflict. It was a front line between Native Americans and foreign settlers, The Mexican Independence, The Mexican Revolution, The Civil War, The Texas Revolution, The Mexican American War, and now the conflict that has gripped northern Mexico for almost a decade.

South Texas is where the ‘Tex meets the Mex’. The highways of ‘el Valle’ are filled with trucks heading north to bring products to the U.S., both legal and illegal, and the ranches have long been smuggling routes for people, guns, and money. It is the front door to America.

This first set of images are the beginning of a long term project on the region, highlighting current and past events that have created the abrasive culture that exists there.

 

Bio

Dominic Bracco II explores the effects of global economics on local communities. Although he works internationally, Dominic’s work often returns to document the effects of Mexican and North American policies on the Texas / Mexico border region where he was raised. He has degrees in journalism and Spanish literature from The University of Texas at Arlington. Past clients include The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Dominic is also a founding member of the collective Prime. He is based in Mexico City.

 

Related links

Dominic Bracco II

 

3 Responses to “dominic bracco II – my republic”


  • If the goal is to document the “abrasive culture that exists”, whether it be in a context of photojournalism or anthropological study, then I need to see more than just intuitively engaged portraits of single subjects at or near the border. Interaction, relationships and connections between individuals will get the point across much sooner, and with greater clarity and precision, than the singular portraits of people who have done the doing, or who have had the doing done to them.

    It’s a funny dynamic that in order for the documentary photographer to disappear from his images, he has to eventually be fully engaged with the environment he finds himself in. Patience and sincerity are just as important to the getting to that place, as is the editorial curiousity which got us there initially.

  • I found this interesting enough to spend some time researching the area of Texas it references and actually looked at the expanded version on Dominic’s website, which is the first time I’ve ever done that before commenting on an essay. I doubt if I would have had I not already been familiar with his work though. For the most part, the photos strike me as un, if not anti-theatrical, and to delve deeper into that kind of photography I need some reason to believe that it is a choice the photographer is making rather than a basic lack of skill at making dramatic photos. Of course I know Bracco is more than capable, and after looking at the expanded project with the Polaroids, I thought it a good approach.

    I after studying it for awhile, doing my small bit of research and considering other work that’s been done on the subject, I came away more with questions than criticisms.

    The El Valle region or southern Texas sounds like a fascinating place. A floodplain rather than an actual valley, its population is about 90 percent Hispanic and votes heavily Democratic, favoring Obama over Romney by about 80-20 percent. Apparently tourism and agribusiness dominate the local economy, with that area producing nearly all of Texas’s citrus and other water hogging crops such as cotton. And, as the intro says, it is a major economic and human highway between the U.S. and Mexico. Why doesn’t the essay show some of that bigger picture? Visually, based on the photographs presented so far, I’m not seeing how the human trafficking aspect of the region’s story is any different than it is in west Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, or California.

    I find the personal aspect of the project interesting as well. Of course it’s possible I project too much as I have a similar thing going on, but the story of a young person escaping an abrasive-cultured small town, becoming well-educated, traveling the world, and then returning to the abrasive culture from which he came and finding new and intriguing insights is often a very good one. The common pitfall, however, is the proclivity many of us have to focus on everything that is bad about the experience without communicating anything of the good. I don’t think there has to be any kind of balance, but for it to work I think there does need to be some kind of fullness. The Polaroids help a lot and I expect other aspects will come to bloom as the years pass and the project progresses. But at this point, I’m curious if there’s more to this “abrasive” culture than just the illegal immigration aspect of it? And how does that sit with the 90 percent of the locals who are Hispanic?

    On a tangent about the meaning of words, I’ve noticed that pretty much all of the EPF finalists refer to their work as personal projects. Seems to old-fashioned me that a personal project wouldn’t be something one would peddle for prizes. It would be something too personal to share widely and too valuable to sell. Of course I realize that it has come to mean what we used to refer to as “on spec,” or “self-financed,” and that’s fine. Just wonder what one would call an old-fashioned personal project? Perhaps there’s no word or phrase for it because they don’t exist anymore. Perhaps everything these days is for sale or for sharing as widely as possible? Perhaps it was always that way?

    Finally, I’m curious about #14. That guy looks like someone I kind of know who wouldn’t be at all out of place in that photo. Who is he and what are those black packages he’s leaning on?

    Overall, good stuff with grande possibilities. I look forward to the project’s development.

  • Interesting short video that includes some excellent still photo work and a written piece in Harper’s about overfishing the Sea of Cortez, one of my old stomping grounds and favorite places on earth. Funny, they talk about how it was a fishing paradise in the 90′s, but that’s when I was there and back then the fishermen were complaining that Japanese trawlers had wiped out the marine life. Video and still photos are more interesting for the social realities for those who live the fishing life. As usual, I would like to see more context, but at least someone’s doing something. Given the work you’re doing throughout the region, I expect you’ve read “Cycles of Conquest” by Edward Spicer. If not, you really should.

Leave a Reply

You must login to post a comment.