-By Maribel Villalva / El Paso Times
Even though Mark Paulda has lived in El Paso for more than 25 years, he recently discovered the magic of the Sun City.
For Paulda, it took seeing El Paso through a camera lens to change his perspective and convert the West Texas town into a metropolitan gem.
"When I first started taking photographs, I thought, 'Oh my God, there's nothing to photograph in this city.' But then I started going out and started noticing that El Paso has some really remarkable aspects to it, such as the landscapes and the architecture," Paulda said. "That's when I realized this city needs to shine and be proud of itself."
"Celebrate El Paso" is result of Paulda's discovery. The 120-page hard-cover book features approximately 140 color images of modern-day.
El Paso. The book is published by the company Blurb and is being sold independently by Paulda on his Web site (www.markpaulda.com) and through Space Available Art Gallery.
The last time a photography book about El Paso was published was in 2005. "It's an El Paso Thing" featured the works of El Paso Times' photographers. Another photography book about the city was "El Paso in Pictures" by El Pasoan Frank Mangan, published in 1971. In 1987, "Union of the Eagles" featured photographs of El Paso and Juárez.
"We've grown up a little since then, and I thought it was time for an update," Paulda said.
For the book, Paulda used both a digital camera and a medium format film camera.
El Paso Mayor John Cook wrote the foreword for the book and said he was thrilled when Paulda approached him with the idea of the book.
"Even before he came to the office, I had been calling some of our local photographers to make a new photography book. So this guy comes in and the first thing he says is, 'You're probably going to say no, but ....' I told him, 'My goodness. You must've heard me praying. This is exactly what I was looking for,'" he said.
Cook said he wants the city to use Paulda's book as a promotional tool for the city and has approached other entities, such as the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, to also consider the book for promotional purposes.
The images in the book were taken in the course of 2åyears. Paulda said he found beauty in the everyday life of El Pasoans.
"Take Downtown, for instance. If all you do is look ahead, you'll see the little shops selling stuff, and that's not very attractive. But if you look up, you start really noticing the detail of the Cortez Building or the Bassett Tower. We have a lot of treasures here.
"The El Paso Museum of Art is quite remarkable at night. And then there's the (Judson F. Williams) Convention Center... I didn't realize that it's lit up at night when there's an event there, and it's really beautiful. There's a light with a beautiful blue hue to it that just glows. That's when you begin to appreciate what you have."
One El Pasoan who was left awestruck by the book is Elizabeth Thurmond-Bengtson, who already has a copy.
"The book is just beautiful. Mark is such a creative person, so he has a good eye and that translates well into photography," Thurmond-Bengtson said. "He has such a unique view of El Paso. He's able to take El Paso outside of the regular format that a more traditional photographer would use. Mark looks for that untraditional view."
Paulda, 41, is fairly new to the world of photography. A longtime event planner, Paulda decided to shift gears and learn photography. But he didn't enroll in a course at the local community college. Paulda sought out the photographers he considers the best in the field and took lessons from them. Coincidentally, they are all based in London.
There's Rupert Truman, known for his album covers for bands such as Pink Floyd; Bruce Smith, a fashion photographer for Vogue; and Kobei Israel, known for his own photography books.
"I thought, 'If I want to learn how to do this right, I want to learn from the best,' " Paulda said.
It was Israel in particular who taught Paulda how to see El Paso in a new light.
"He told me I needed to open my eyes and see my city in a new way. It took me four or five months to understand that. At first, I was frustrated and then one day it just clicked. I started noticing the different moods of the mountains and the great architecture Downtown. After that, it became very easy," he said.
Since learning the art of photography, Paulda has made it his full-time job.
He's also been recognized for his work locally, nationally and internationally.
This year alone, he was named an abstract finalist in the International Color Awards Photography Masters Cup; was named a commended photographer by the Prix de la Photographie Paris; was a semi-finalist in the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year in London; and was accepted in the National Geographic Exhibition in New York City.
Paulda is already working on his next book project.
He and a group of Juárez photographers are working on a book about the sister cities to illustrate the unique geography of the region.
It's official: Paulda has found photography.
"This is my passion. When I go out and about, I can really go into a whole different world when I'm taking photographs. I can see everything."
Maribel Villalva may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6129.
About the book
"Celebrate El Paso," a book showcasing El Paso through photographs by local photographer Mark Paulda, is $52 and may be purchased through the Web site www.markpaulda.com or by calling 240-0171.
A limited edition of the book, titled "Celebrating El"Paso," is $65 and can be purchased at Space Available Art Gallery, 2419 N. Stanton. There were only 250 copies of the limited edition printed and each copy is signed and numbered, and includes a certificate of authenticity.
The book features approximately 150 color photographs of El Paso taken during the past 2å years.