El Paso (Before/After)

There’s a street corner in El Paso, Texas, that Stephen Shore photographed in 1975. The picture appeared in his book, “Uncommon Places.”

Even at the time, Shore’s photography was a cataloging of the kinds of things that were doomed to vanish; wallpaper, street corners, truck stop restrooms. His pictures were down the road from Greil Marcus’ “Old Weird America” and just shy of the multiplex and big box store. I visited El Paso a few weeks ago, and the location bears little resemblance to the Shore photo. Here’s what it looks like from above (pic links to a flickrmap):


Here’s Shore’s picture. Note the large brick building on the left of the frame, and the small, historical marker in the foreground:

El Paso Street, El Paso, Texas, July 5, 1975 by Stephen Shore

Above and beyond the merits of Shore’s picture as a photograph, there are few key things that have changed in the last 31 years.

  • The street that the pedestrian is waiting to cross has been filled-in and is now cement, part of an extended memorial area
  • The (rootless, planterless) tree is gone
  • The marker has been turned into a larger memorial/statue area
  • The front facade of the large brick hotel remains, and has been added onto, after demolition of the Capri Theater and Payless Drugs
  • The parking lot on the left is larger and the liquor store is gone

Here’s a crude cellphone video of what it looks like now:

4 thoughts on “El Paso (Before/After)”

  1. I lived in El Paso from 1988 to 1996. Coming from a rather unremarkable small suburban town, I walked endlessly the fascinating streets of El Paso and Cd. Juarez, including traversing this street corner many times. I think I experienced the tail end of the period captured by Stephen Shore’s 1975 photo. It still looked remarkably similar to his photo even in 1988. After NAFTA in 1993 and the subsequent militarization of the border, it began to rapidly change and appear much as it does today. Now there are plans to raze about 75% of the downtown area in an effort at revitalization. It’s sad really. Preservation is not really an issue to El Pasoans.

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