New Photo Book by Michael Berman Explores the Stark Beauty of the Gila Wilderness


Photo: Michael Berman

Photographer Michael Berman has spent untold hours over the last three decades hiking and surveying the terrain of Gila Wilderness Area, capturing subtle yet intricate details of the southwest New Mexico ecosystem with his large-format camera. Berman, a Guggenheim Fellow, presents a collection of these intriguing photographs in his new book Gila: Radical Visions, The Enduring Silence. (Click here for the book.)


The black-and-white prints offer a multifaceted and in-depth view into the natural beauty of the oldest designated Wilderness Area in the United States. Berman’s images show the varied terrain of the Gila

Wilderness, from arid scrublands and burned-out forest to thick pine forest and fast-flowing streams.  He juxtaposes fertile forest and decaying detritus to contextualize the life and death cycle that governs the natural world. Beetle-pocked trunks of blackened trees contrast with resilient desert plants poking up through the earth. Seeing these photographs, the viewer develops an admiration for the robust Gila landscape.


Gila is separated into two sections: one with Berman’s photographs, the other with essays written by Phillip Connors, Martha Cooper, Dave Foreman, Jorge Garcia, John Horning, Rex Johnson Jr., Sharman Apt Russell, and Victor Masayesva. The range of writing on the Gila Wilderness supports Berman’s visual work, and helps bring home to the reader the value in preserving this particular corner of the world. 


“I hope they suggest both the primal sense of walking through the Gila and of a reverence for the small mysteries of this place,” Berman told me in an email. “Hell I really just hope people can still see that there is a little bit of magic in the world—if you get out there a bit.”


Anyone who happens to be in Albuquerque this week can see many of the photographs in the book in person. More than 80 carbon pigment inkjet prints are on display at 516 ARTS gallery through February 16 (Click here for more details). The Gallery and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance are presenting the exhibition, and all proceeds from the sale of the prints, along with copies of the book sold there, go towards funding the 516 ARTS Gallery and conservation efforts by NMWA for the Gila Wilderness Area.



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