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Louis Carlos Bernal archive

Identifier: AG 182

Scope and Contents

Series One, Personal and Biographical Material, consists of one letter addressed to Bernal and contains three snapshots of Bernal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. There is also an Ofrenda from a 1989 bicycling accident that left Bernal in a coma for four years, before his death in 1993.

Series Two, Publications, consists of two oversize copies of Picture Magazine featuring the ESPEJO Project and one issue of Popular Photography featuring an article on Bernal following his accident. Also included are two exhibition posters with narratives written by Bernal.

Series Three, Photographic materials, consists of work prints, contact sheets, negatives, transparencies, and various camera boxes from circa 1953 until 1993. Subject matter includes notable projects by Bernal along with early photographs from Bernal’s high school and college years, snapshots of friends and family, events, and photographs of Bernal’s time as a professor at Pima Community College. Also included are 13 prints by the Photo II class taught by Ann Simmons-Myers in honor of Bernal following his accident and photos gifted to Bernal by other artists.

Series Four, Audiovisual materials, consists of three 1/2" VHS videotapes and DVDs documenting photographer Louis Bernal’s work, the aftermath of the bicycle accident in 1989 and his death in 1993. Of particular note is an interview of Bernal done by Ben Rider for Once Over “Easy” Productions in 1982. There is a segment from Arizona Illustrated done in January 1990, several months after his bicycle accident, where several friends are interviewed about Bernal, his work, his impact on his life, and their hopes for his recovery. There are also several local Tucson network news clips from October 1993 about Bernal’s death.

Series Five contains exhibition materials from Pima Community College's exhibition, "Louis Carlos Bernal: Arizona Unseen, Color Photographs, 1978-1988."


  • undated, 1953-2016


Language of Materials

Material in English Spanish

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

Duplication may require permission from copyright holder.

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Louis Carlos Bernal (1941–1993) was born in Douglas, Arizona and grew up in Phoenix. After completing his M.F.A. at Arizona State University in 1972, he joined the faculty of Pima Community College in Tucson where he remained for the duration of his career, developing and heading the photography program. In 1979, Bernal, along with four other photographers – Morrie Camhi, Abigail Heyman, Roger Minick, and Neal Slavin – received funding from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to photograph Chicano culture in the Southwest for an exhibition and a book project entitled ESPEJO: Reflections of the Mexican American. The commission brought him closer to his ethnic roots and fueled a passionate direction for his work, gaining international recognition for championing regional diversity while symbolizing his exploration of identity as a Mexican American.

Following a tradition of Latin American documentary street photography, Bernal photographed in the barrio – a young girl and her grandfather in a corner barber shop, a girl taking her quinceañera, or locals posing in front of colorful wall murals – images that captured the unique character of Chicano life. He wrote, “My images speak of the religious and family ties I have experienced as a Chicano. I have concerned myself with the mysticism of the Southwest and the strength of the spiritual and cultural values of the barrio.”

Bernal’s work also centered on the family and the home, believing these two elements combined to form the most significant structure within the Mexican-American community. As he wandered streets from Texas to Los Angeles, he met people who were drawn to his charismatic personality, and he was often invited into their homes. He asked permission to photograph people surrounded by their treasured possessions, their family portraits and mementos, and their shrines decorated with saints, candles, and flowers. His subjects appear at ease and confident in front of his camera, a product of Bernal’s deep respect for them. Bernal’s interest in what people chose to surround themselves with led him to photograph the interiors of homes without people. These sensitive portraits of both prized and everyday items in living rooms, bedrooms and gardens were perhaps his most significant innovation.

Bernal’s interest in strong compositional design and technical expertise are evident in both his skillfully printed black-and-white images and his color work that luminously captures the bright pinks, blues, and greens of interior painted adobe walls, window curtains, and religious icons. He felt a particular urgency to document the streets, people, homes, and artifacts in historic neighborhoods, as many were undergoing rapid changes or being bulldozed to make way for urban renewal. In recording the Mexican- American experience of Southwest towns and barrios, Bernal created a visual document that preserves the specific iconography and reveals many aspects of this distinct culture.


Takes classes at Phoenix Community College and University of the Americas, Mexico City
First solo exhibition Memorial Union, Arizona State University, Tempe
Group exhibition Seeing Photographically at George Eastman House
BA, Arizona State University, Tempe
Drafted into US Army for two years, works as photographer, Ft. Lewis Washington, and Berlin, Germany
Marries Sandra Anderson (div. 1985)
In Berlin, Germany
Enters MA program at Arizona State University, Tempe
Works with Frederick Sommer
Paper Strips series
Barrio series
MFA from Arizona State University, Tempe
Moves to Tucson and heads Photography program at PCC
An American Fairy Tale (Nixon) series
Barrio Exhibition, PCC
An American Fairy Tale (Nixon), Limner Gallery, Scottsdale
Barrio Exhibition, Heard Museum, Phoenix
1977(or 78)
Benitez Suite completed
Espejo Project [records life & culture on the Borderlands: CA,AZ,NM, TX)from El Paso to San Diego]
Exhibition Louis Carlos Bernal: Photographs at the Center for Creative Photography, July 29-September 6 [featured works from the Benitiz Suite and Espejo]
Espejo Exhibition, group show, Oakland Museum
Images and Conversations [took images to illustrate book]
Group exhibition Espejo, with Morrie Camhi, Abigail Heyman and Roger Minick at Center for Creative Photography, July 17-August 25.
Con Corino-Chicano, group exhibition, Dusseldorf, Germany
One of 10 photographers to document the Summer Olympics, Los Angeles
10 Photographers Olympic Images, exhibition MoCA, Los Angeles
Exhibit, Robert Buitrón and Louis Carlos Bernal at Center for Creative Photography, August 25-October 10 [selected images from 1984 Olympics]
Group exhibition, State of the State: An Exhibition of Arizona Photography, State Capitol Museum, Phoenix, May 1-16
The Lubbock Series
Exhibitions at Etherton Gallery, Tucson and University of Texas, Lubbock
Struck by car, enters coma
Exhibition Louis Carlos Bernal at Center for Creative Photography, January 20-March 17
Chicanismo exhibition at George Eastman House; travels through 1994
Dies at age 52 in Tucson


15 Linear Feet (18 boxes)

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Correspondence, publications, photographic material, and video recordings, 1953-1993, related to photographer and educator Louis Carlos Bernal (1941-1993). Included is one letter addressed to the artist, publications of Photography Magazine featuring the ESPEJO Project, work prints, contact sheets, and negatives documenting Bernal’s projects and his personal life. The collection also includes VHS recordings including an interview of Bernal done in 1982 with Ben Rider of Once Over “Easy” Productions; an Arizona Illustrated segment from January 1992 about Bernal, his accident, and interviews with friends; and new clips from local Tucson television stations about his death.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Personal and Biographical Material, 1984, 1993, 1 linear feet, 2 boxes

Series 2: Publications, undated, 1978-1993, 1 linear foot/5 folders

Series 3: Photographic materials, undated, 1953-1990, 11 linear feet/18 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Work prints, undated, 1953-1990, 10 boxes
  2. Subseries 2: Contact sheets, undated, circa 1960-1990, 3 boxes
  3. Subseries 3: Negatives, undated, circa 1960s-1990, 3 boxes
  4. Subseries 4: Transparencies, undated, 1 box
  5. Subseries 5: Photographic supplies, undated, 1 box

Series 4: Audiovisual materials, undated, 1982-1993, .5 linear feet/1 box

  1. Subseries 1: VHS tapes, 1982-1993, 1 folder
  2. Subseries 2: DVD duplications, undated, 1982-1990, 1 folder
  3. Subseries 3: Interview transcript, 1982-circa 1990, 1 folder

Series 5: Pima Community College Exhibition Materials

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Lisa Bernal Brethour and Katrina Bernal, 2014.

Related Materials

AG 233, Louis Carlos Bernal Miscellaneous Acquisitions collection


All are in the collection of Volkerding Library.
  • Espejo: Reflections of the Mexican American. Oakland: The Oakland Museum, 1978.
  • Exhibiting Photography: Twenty Years at the Center for Creative Photography. Tucson: Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, 1996.
  • Images and Conversations. Patricia Preciado Martin. Photographs by Louis Carlos Bernal. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1983.
  • Louis Carlos Bernal: Barrios. Curated by Ann Simmons-Myers. Tucson: Pima Community College, 2002. [Contains chronology and bibliography]
  • Louis Carlos Bernal: Benefit Auction Exhibition. Tucson: The Auction, 1992.
  • Original Sources: Art and Archives at the Center for Creative Photography. Amy Rule and Nancy Solomon. Tucson: Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, 2002.

Processing Information

Chronology was written by Ann Richwine. Series four was processed in 2015 and finding aid was updated by Meghan Jordan in 2016. The rest of the collection was processed in 2017 by Paloma Phelps. Finding aid updated by Paloma Phelps in July 2017 and again by Tai Huesgen in June 2020.

Louis Carlos Bernal archive 1953-1993
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 2020
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid encoded in English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States