Pace Reveals Consummate Technique as well as Compassion
by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero, Spring 2008

Currently, the photography of David Pace can be seen in the Robots exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, in the Winter Exhibition in Compass Point at the Sobrato Center in Milpitas, and at the Martin Luther King Library’s second floor gallery space. The three shows provide an opportunity to see Pace’s work over a space of more than ten years. A progression from his quirky humor in graduate school, through changing interests sparked by travel experiences will be seen. Throughout the viewing of David Pace’s photography, from work in Ecktacolor through toned gelatin silver prints, to digital color, one cannot escape the impression of old-fashioned Ansel Adams-style perfectionism in hands-on darkroom technique.



David Pace’s Greg’s Robot Collection, Ecktacolor prints from 1991, in the Robots exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, part of the Zero One Festival.

Pace received an MA from the University of Chicago and graduated from San Jose State University with an MFA in Photography in 1991. He has since made his reputation as both a photographer and filmmaker. His still photography in the 90’s concentrated on a grid format that contained, in a deadpan presentation, row upon row of the little things people collect. The objects ranged from elegant to funny, from the old and valuable to the pop and plastic. Pace’s two large photographs, seen in the Museum of Art, come from this body of work and feature collections of robots and transformers.


Pace’s Panchimalco, 2005, toned gelatin silver print, shot in El Salvador.

Pace began to teach photography at Santa Clara University in 1998. When he began to travel with the University’s missions to El Salvador, he turned his attention to the landscape and the people of this ravaged country that still struggles to recover from the brutal civil strife of the late 20th Century. His elegant black and white photographs from these visits to El Salvador are now on exhibition at the Sobrato Center in Milpitas.


Pace’s Alegria, toned gelatin silver print, 2007, can be seen in Compass Point at the Sobrato Community Confernece Center in Milpitas

This series of photographs became the impetus for further travel in Europe, Central America and Africa where Pace observed people of “traditional societies” coping with the effects of globalization. It is here that a viewer begins to know Pace’s relationship to people more than anything. He listens to their life stories. Eschewing contemporary gimmicks or socio-political critique, Pace photographs the individuals he meets in the context of their daily routines, with honesty, calm and respect. The photograph reveals a clear relationship and trust between the subject and the photographer.

As an explanation for the conceptual basis of his approach, Pace quotes the Spanish poet, Juan Velasco, “When you really pay attention to the person in front of you – when you really SEE the person in front of you, then you can really help this world.” “The Person in Front of You” has become the title of this ongoing series of portraits.



Arabic Teacher, Bereba, 2008, digital color print taken in Burkina Faso,West Africa, by David Pace

At the Martin Luther King Library exhibition, Pace documents his growing relationship to the residents of Bereba in Burkina Faso, West Africa. As part of a project by FAVL (Friends of African Village Libraries), Pace first went to Burkina Faso in 2007. Return visits have produced growing relationships to the residents of Bereba and a remarkable series of portraits of the individuals in this community.



Mother and Child, Bereba, 2007, by David Pace, now at the Martin Luther King Library in San Jose.

This series is in color, not the exaggerated color common now to digital photography, but a wonderfully understated complex of the rich dark color of flesh and shadows, the bright colors of patterns and dress, and the earthy colors of the landscape and architecture. One of the more unusual and fascinating images is a group portrait of a women’s collective that lends and invests their collective resources to the individual members and allows for small-scale entrepreneurship amongst the women. Most of the portraits are straightforward, relaxed, yet unsmiling. Some reveal a twinkle in the eye and a shy smile.


David Pace’s Mande Mahamadi, Bereba, 2007

David Pace always brings his subjects a copy of their portrait when he returns to Bereba. On his last visit he brought a book he had bound with all the portraits done to date in it and gave it to the library. One of Pace’s older subjects was amazed and delighted to discover something he had never imagined he would see in his lifetime — his own image in a book in a library! From all reports, the growth of literacy, the addition of a library and photographic portraits in Bereba are the source of pride and rewards to its residents.

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