Peril and Wonder in the Gran Desierto
Publication Date: March 2006
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The Devil’s Highway crosses a stretch of borderland desert in northern Mexico where many immigrants have traveled—and too many have died. It is a despoblado where desperate people defend secret places. But it is also known as El Gran Desierto—a place where stately saguaros stand near aromatic elephant trees, where sand dunes caress the edges of jagged granite mountains, where one can watch bighorn sheep in the morning and whales in the afternoon. Over the years, desert rat Bill Broyles has ventured repeatedly into this sunshot landscape, slogged across its salt flats and sand dunes, and defied its deadly heat. This book chronicles his years of exploration, a vivid and personal introduction to a thorny but ultimately enchanting place that manages to endear itself over time, if it doesn’t kill you first. Michael Berman’s stark black-and-white photographs capture the desolate beauty of the desert while conveying a sense of Broyles’ adventures. Gleaned from more than 4,000 images shot with a large-format camera, these exquisite photographs translate the desert’s formidable monotone into finely tuned studies of light and represent some of the best photos ever taken of this mysterious region. El Gran Desierto is a grand desert indeed, with beauty, spirit, and mystery rivaling any place on Earth, and anyone captivated by the earlier explorations of Lumholtz, Ives, or Hornaday—or by Edward Abbey’s love of desert places—will revel in these modern-day adventures. Sunshot defies the stereotype of a punishing wilderness to show how even the most perilous desert can be alluring if approached with knowledge and respect.
Michael P. Berman is a photographer and painter. A former Guggenheim fellow, his works have been exhibited throughout the country and are in the numerous public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum. He lives in the Mimbres Valley, bordering the Gila Wilderness.