Sharon Stewart Photograph Collection
Scope and Content
- Stewart, Sharon (Person)
Patrons are required to contact photographer for permission to reproduce these photographs for any purpose. Copyright: Sharon Stewart. Model release forms on file. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.
Please contact the Pictorial Archivist for more information.
As founding Vice President of the Houston Center for Photography, Stewart served on its Board of Directors, Programming and Education Committees while writing for its quarterly publication. She is a member of the "Water in the West Project and Archive," a consortium of eleven photographers whose continuing self-directed surveys document the politics and history of water use in the American West.
Sharon Stewart lives in the mountain village of Chacón, NM, at the confluence of the Great Plains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where she has extensively photographed the economic, social, familial, mythic, and religious influences that define the cultural landscape of northern New Mexico.
El Agua es la Vida: A Village Life Portrait Project History This project, begun in 1992, presents a village life portrait of El Cerrito, NM, animated by an interdependence on water from the community irrigation ditch, or acequia. No one in El Cerrito remembers being told of the acequia’s origins, lending to speculation that the waterway was created by Native Americans who first inhabited this Pecos River Valley. Others believe its existence can be ascribed, as some other 1,000 acequias in New Mexico, to the efforts of Franciscan priests, who when colonizing the region for Spain, were directed by the crown to establish two vital elements of village life—water and faith. Very likely a confluence of efforts set this hand dug, one-and-a-half-mile gravity flow channel that sustains the village.
Acequia also refers to an association of users that honors water as a community resource rather than a commodity. Parciantes (water-rights holders) have shared for generations in the responsibility of maintaining a waterway that feeds their families, orchards, gardens, fields, and livestock. While recharging watersheds, acequias also provide a rich riparian zone for wildlife, shade trees, and native plants, many of which are used in traditional medicines. In a self-governing system dating to the Moors, who established acequias in Spain during their seven century occupation, the mayordomo (caretaker) is selected by the parciantes to oversee the acequia’s maintenance throughout the year and especially, in an almost religious involvement, during the spring limpia (cleaning). In El Cerrito, the limpia is the one social gathering outside the rare wedding and more common funeral for which extended family and curious students of traditional village life return.
Over the years, the title of the project/portfolio has evolved from El Cerrito y la Acequia Madre to El Agua es la Vida: A Village Life Portrait. Several of the photographs have been renamed as well. The changes are reflected in this collection as of January 2014.
Exit West: A Cultural Confluence Project History From Sharon Stewart: "In recent decades, the inherent immigrant nature of North Americans has evinced itself once again in a revived population shift to the American West. In 1994 I became one of those immigrants when I relocated to the convergence of the Great Plains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico. As a cultural chronicler using cameras as explorative companions, my years living in the Mora Valley have been spent observing, as well as being observed.
My neighbors, many of whom are eleventh-generation descendants of Spanish colonists, some of them still speaking in archaic Andalusian idioms, have been reluctant to embrace the outside world and those of it, which in turn has provided for an insular life tethered by their faith in the church, family, and the land. The clutch of poverty stifled this remote rural domain during our country's great postwar era of prosperity, and a land-based subsistence continues to define life in these mountain villages well into the twenty-first century. Within this, there is a magnitude of cultural wealth here that is not obvious to outsiders. After spending two years away, I returned in 2009 with a new understanding of my place alongside the world I’d photographed, indeed had become part of, and I began to see shifts that are being felt in the valley.
Rich in land and culture, my neighbors live at a juncture of waning traditions and the inevitable accretions of change. The choices they now make reveal the personal, though universal, tensions that inform this chronicle, summoning an invocation to examine suppositions about tradition, community, and progress."
Source: Biography and project histories supplied by Sharon Stewart.
61 items (3 boxes) : 50 selenium toned prints, 11 silver gelatin prints ; 8 x 10 in.
Language of Materials
Select Image Available Online
- Acequias -- Pictorial works
- Agriculture -- New Mexico -- El Cerrito
- Chacon (N.M.)
- Church buildings -- New Mexico -- El Cerrito
- Ditches -- New Mexico -- El Cerrito
- El Agua es la Vida: A Village Life Portrait
- El Cerrito (N.M.)
- Irrigation -- New Mexico -- El Cerrito
- Irrigation canals and flumes -- New Mexico -- Maintance and repair
- Irrigation water -- New Mexico -- Management
- Mora Valley (N.M.)
- Rock art -- New Mexico -- El Cerrito
- Water -- New Mexico -- El Cerrito
- Finding Aid of the Sharon Stewart Photograph Collection, 1992-2008
- Edited Full Draft
- Eileen Price
- © 2007, 2015, 2023
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- Script of description
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- Finding aid is in English
- Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.
Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository
University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131