Barry Gifford and David Perry, 1998. Chronicle Books, San Francisco

Review  |  Bordertown is a little glimpse at the border between losing and winning, desert and city, fear and terror, life and death. Which is to say it’s scary as hell yet strangely compelling.

The layout and design are in a stylish scrapbook format, with mystic graphic talismans running through the book. Recurring themes run through the journey. The plight of a missing child named Omar Vargas being one of these themes.. Bordertown is the collaboration of photographer David Perry and writer Barry Gifford. Perry's dark and brooding photographs perfectly convey the sense of coppery foreboding on the other side of the border. The photographs take you on a journey from the border to the country side. The border towns appear as if in some nether dream world. The country side appears forlorn with nothing on the horizon, dusty and hot.

The border towns appear as if in some nether dream world.

The text is a chronological record of the border journey, and comprise clipping from newspapers and magazines as well as Gifford's own observations. This combination is just as dark and creepy as the photos but put together the two form something beautiful. Surprising because the things that Gifford picks out are the ugly, the tragic, and the hopeless. Yet they have a solemn dignity. This is especially evident in the section on the Boys Town whorehouse. I keep thinking however that somebody just out of sight must be having a good time.

The book is beautifully printed and bound and is a great example of the good vision that can come from a photographer and writer working in perfect unison. I hope there is more coming from Perry and Gifford because I want to see it. –M.B.