Center for Creative Photography

“Louis Carlos Bernal: Monografía” is a landmark survey of one of the most significant American photographers of the 20th century, co-published by Aperture and the Center for Creative Photography.

“Monografía” is the first major scholarly account to illuminate Bernal’s impact on American art history, featuring essays written by Rebecca Senf, chief curator at the Center for Creative Photography, and Elizabeth Ferrer, curator for CCP’s upcoming exhibition, “Louis Carlos Bernal: Retrospectiva” set to open Sept. 14.

“[Monografía] is a must-have for aficionados of photography and Latinx art, providing a comprehensive look at a seminal artist whose work continues to inspire and resonate,” writes reviewer Gerald A. Padilla in the Latino Book Review. “This book not only commemorates the legacy of Louis Carlos Bernal but also amplifies the voices and visions of the Chicano community he so beautifully portrayed.”

Best known for his intimate portrayals of barrio communities of the Southwest United States, Bernal made photographs in the late 1970s and ’80s that draw upon the resonance of Catholicism, Indigenous beliefs, and popular practices tied to the land.

Bernal 'Monografía' illuminates photographer's impact
(Left) Louis Carlos Bernal, Juanita Serrano with Santo Niño de Atocha, 1978; from Louis Carlos Bernal: Monografía (Aperture, 2024). © Lisa Bernal Brethour and Katrina Bernal. Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Louis Carlos Bernal Archive. (Right) “Louis Carlos Bernal: Monografía” cover.

‘La Vida Cotidiana’

“The physicality of the book itself—a clothbound volume with 166 images spread across 232 pages—commands presence,” Padilla continues. “It is both a visual feast and a tactile experience, inviting the reader to linger over the glossy pages. Each photograph a window into a world rendered invisible to many. The bilingual text affirms Bernal’s cultural dualities, making the book accessible to a wider audience and honoring the linguistic heritage of its subjects.”

For Bernal, photography was a potent tool in affirming the value of individuals and communities who lacked visibility and agency. By photographing the interiors of homes and their inhabitants, Bernal showed these spaces as rich with personal, cultural, and spiritual meaning. His unforgettable photographs express a vision of ‘la vida cotidiana’—everyday life—as a state of grace.

“Louis Carlos Bernal: Monografía is more than a photographic collection; it is a historical document and a cultural artifact. It serves as a definitive account of Bernal’s artistic journey and his indelible impact on the fabric of American art. As readers turn each page, they are invited not just to observe but to feel—to experience the profundity of the everyday and the extraordinary that Bernal captured so eloquently.”

“Louis Carlos Bernal: Monografía” is available now.

Louis Carlos Bernal: Retrospectiva
Sept. 14, 2024 – March 15, 2025

Bernal was born in 1941 in Douglas, Arizona, and based in Tucson. A pioneering Chicano photographer he saw his work as an art form rather than mere documentation. His career began in the early 1970s, after earning his MFA at Arizona State University in 1972. He focused on the people in Tucson’s barrios, where he lived and taught, before traveling to small towns across the Southwest. He then joined the Pima Community College faculty, where he developed and led its photography program. CCP preserves the Louis Carlos Bernal Archive, including fine prints, project records, correspondence, and clippings.

This exhibition will include photographs made in Southwestern barrio communities and include examples of Bernal’s early experimental work. Including photographs he made during his frequent trips to Mexico, and never-seen images he produced in Cuba.