“Las Vegas, New Mexico” is about a city rooted in a complex linguistic and cultural history where the boundaries of identity are fluid and intricate, but is also as American as any small town in the country.
Featuring: Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft
United Photo Industries
James Estrin and David Gonzalez, Co-Editors of the New York Times Lens Blog
The town of Las Vegas, New Mexico was founded in 1835 on a land grant provided by the Mexican government. Eleven years later, an American General marched into town to announce that New Mexico was now an American territory. There isn’t a tidy narrative about how Las Vegas’ people have become part of the American fabric. It is a layered place with a complex history of different cultures coming, or being forced, together — of friction between languages, of discrimination, and of economic disparity. For a brief time, Las Vegas was one of the largest and most important cities in the American Southwest, but its population is now shrinking rapidly as young people leave to find opportunities elsewhere. Most older Las Vegans have inherited the slow-spoken Spanish of northern New Mexico, but the language is in danger of disappearing. Catholicism predominates and sects like the Los Penitentes brotherhood are still active in the community and cloaked to outsiders. Las Vegas, New Mexico is a place that is rooted in a complex linguistic and cultural history where the boundaries of identity are fluid and intricate, but it is also as American as any small town in the country.
Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft is a photographer, radio producer and writer originally from Quebec, Canada, but currently based in San Diego, California. After graduating from journalism school in Montreal and working for CBC Radio, Gabriel moved to New York City and then Southern California to pursue freelance photojournalism and radio producing. He has worked on a wide-array of stories, from investigative projects exploring student homelessness in San Diego County to long-term documentary storytelling projects such as “Las Vegas, New Mexico” to podcasts about indigenous perspectives on public land. Gabriel is particularly interested in the intersection of documentary photography and exhaustive historical research and how these two disciplines can be used to better understand contemporary realities.