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Student photography on display at Branigan Cultural Center

A group of 14 photojournalism students at NMSU will present “Small Village New Mexico,” a documentary photography project that will be on display at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  The exhibition opens April 14, and a reception will be held May 5 to recognize the student photographers. 

A colorful recycling bin bears the name of the local high school in Hatch, New Mexico. This photo is one of many that will appear in the “Small Village New Mexico” documentary photo exhibition opening April 14 at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces. (Photo by Jewel Dominguez)

Students were asked to document small villages in the area including La Mesa, Hatch, Mesquite, Mesilla and Las Cruces. Photography professor Bruce Berman edited and directed the class project with the intention of providing students with the opportunity to get out of the classroom and out into the field.

“I thought it would be great to not just do school work, but school work that the world could interact with,” Berman said

Berman said it is important for students to understand the process of production and what it feels like to create work that will be seen by others.

“After all, documentary photography is about recording history, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. This is southern New Mexico, and people from southern New Mexico will be looking at themselves through the students’ eyes.”

Students were encouraged to identify the style of photography they do best, and to hone in on their individual skill sets. Nathaniel Bitting, a senior and assistant editor of “Small Village New Mexico,” said the experience encouraged him to get out of his comfort zone and practice consistency in his photography. 

“It was important for me to find things that would be inclusive of the lifestyle of the people living in these villages and what culture they inherited,” Bitting said.

Berman explains the process of creating the “Small Village New Mexico” photo book in the photo lab in Milton Hall on March 30. (Photo by Hannah Hunter/Kokopelli)

Other students said that being a part of the “Small Village New Mexico” project helped them view photography differently than they did before, including junior Jewel Dominguez. Dominguez said she has become a much better photographer than she was at the start of the semester. 

“Photography was never in the cards; I have always been a better writer. However, taking up this project made me study different photographers and spend more time on my work. I took a lot more pride in my work and gave my all when I went out on a shoot,” Dominguez said.

Senior Willie Cummings said that collaborating with classmates helped keep him inspired and motivated. 

“A moment, a situation, or an individual can all spark the beginning of a creative project. It all just comes down to what sparks the moment or idea,” Cummings said. 

The class is currently in the process of producing a “Small Village New Mexico” photo book that will be available for purchase by the end of the semester. 

The NMSU and Las Cruces communities are encouraged to visit the exhibition and attend the reception on May 5 in support of the student photographers.

“I hope those who come to see our gallery see not only each village’s culture, but also what each student saw in their own journey through these villages,” Bitting said.

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