Pedro E. Guerrero: Portrait of an Image Maker

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Pedro E. Guerrero was the personal photographer of famous architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson. His photographs have been part of exhibits at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, among others. Guerrero’s life and work is now the subject of a documentary produced by Suzanne Johnson, executive director of Gnosis, Ltd. She joins us to share the details of the project.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to "Horizonte." As the national argument on immigration continues, locally an Arizona town debates an issue of their own. The focus -- a church day labor program. We'll hear from different sides of the issues, plus a look at a documentary on renowned Arizona photographer Pedro E. Guerrero. Those stories coming up next on " Horizonte." The national debate on immigration reform continues to divide the Congress, and here in the town of Cave Creek, people are discussing a day labor program. For the past six years, the day laborers meet at Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church, where employers stop to pick them up. This week town officials and citizens had the opportunity to listen and give their views on the program. Joining me to talk about the issue in Cave Creek is town mayor Vincent Francia, Don Sorchych, publisher of local newspaper "Sonoran News," and former Cave Creek vice mayor Ralph Mozilo. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on " Horizonte." Mayor, give us a sense of the demographics of Cave Creek.

>> Vincent Francia:
Cave Creek is approximately 30 square miles, to the northeast, and its population currently is about 4,800. It's evenly divided, almost 50-50 between men and women, highly educated, over 50 percent with university or some type of collegiate degrees.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Retirement community, young community?

>> Vincent Francia:
Young The average age as of 2005, a census I saw, was 46 years old, the average age in Cave Creek.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Ralph, you were there when the program first came into effect. Tell us the history of it.

>> Ralph Mozilo:
The first aspect is that the church did not bring the day laborers. Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church did not bring the day laborers to Cave Creek. They were there for many years on both sides of the main road, Cave Creek road coming through town. And as a then town councilman of the town of Cave Creek, I looked for a solution to try to get the day laborers away from the streets, due to complaints by both the businesses and the citizens of Cave Creek for various issues, like safety issues and concerns about blocking the businesses. Modeled on a program I had seen in a city in southern California, I looked to try to have the same program duplicated in the town of Cave Creek. I first went to our town manager to see if I could have that program run within town hall parking lot, and the consensus was that it wouldn't work there. And so I went to the Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church where I'm also a member, and asked the rector of that church at the time if I could run the program in the church. He acquiesced to that suggestion and began the program by soliciting the day workers up and down the road to please come to the church, help us put the program together, and that's how the program started in April of 2000.

>> Jose Cardenas:
And you were vice mayor during some of this time period?

>> Ralph Mozilo:
I was elected town councilor in June of 1999, took office in June of 1999, and in 2001 became the vice mayor of the town. My term there ran until 2005.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Don, you publish the "Sonoran News." You're a long-time resident, I understand, of Cave Creek. You were certainly there when this program began. What was the nature of the problem and issue then, and then we're going to bring it up to date.

>> Don Sorchych:
It might be useful to look at some history here. Back when I first went to Cave Creek in the early '90's, it was not uncommon for I.N.S. to come in, go through the restaurants, check identification, and so on. Even as late as about '97, the sheriff's office made frequent forays into the desert and the washes and so on, pulled out illegal aliens, had I.N.S. bring a wagon up there and haul them away.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Were there significant numbers of people there?

>>Don Sorchych:
Oh, yes, very significant.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Any sense of the numbers?

>>Don Sorchych:
Well, for example, when they made these sweeps, they would arrest as many as 40 or 50 people, but that was by no means all of them.

>> Jose Cardenas:
And did they come back?

>>Don Sorchych:
Oh, yeah. Then what happened was Chandler had their famous incident where they were accused of profiling. And all of a sudden that type of enforcement shut down.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Would it have been 1997?

>>Don Sorchych:
Yeah. So after that it was open season for the town. I, for example, started the newspaper in 1995, and as early as the early 2000's, I was regularly patrolling the streets, taking pictures of people being picked up, taking pictures of their license numbers, for 35 straight weeks I had front page...

>> Jose Cardenas:
You mean picked up to…

>>Don Sorchych:
Picking up the day workers along the street, photographs of them being picked up, photos of license plates, for 35 straight weeks, and everybody loved it. I finally said, if you love it so much, send pictures. Nobody did, so I stopped it. The church is a whole different issue.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Let me ask you, was it your sense that the number of people who were seeking employment increased after enforcement from I.N.S. and immigration?

>>Don Sorchych:
Very definitely, and much of it came from Phoenix. And I meant to say, after enforcement stopped, these people were coming up from Phoenix to get work - a lot more. And there was no enforcement of any kind. We often have people come to us, the mayor pointed out, a lot of women were offended because they would go to the Circle Ks, and if they knew Spanish at all they were in trouble because they could hear their anatomy discussed and so on. So there was a lot of that type of commentary locally. When the church program happened, my objection to that was the fact that the town got way too involved with the program. Ralph was an official at the town, he was also an official of the church. And one of the things they did immediately, I don't know how immediately, it took me a while to find out, but I heard these rumors and finally checked them out. The town began to print identification badges for illegal aliens. They were using town tax-bought equipment and they were using town employees to do that.

>> Jose Cardenas:
My understanding is that that's now stopped. Is that right, mayor?

>> Vincent Francia:
Yes, that's correct.

>> Don Sorchych:
Well, yes, because we put it on the front page, they stopped doing it. But even then, the town said, well the church is paying us $2 a badge. Show me where they're paying $2. They weren't. They did after we disclosed it. Then we found that the town was funding breakfasts for the illegal aliens. And having a purchasing agent go out, buy breakfast for them and deliver them to the church. Once again, we could find nowhere that the church had paid anything. This was being paid for by the town. After we disclosed that, the town manager wrote a personal check. Whether that took care of it all, I don't know, but I do believe those practices have stopped. But they put a stain on this program right from the outset.

>> Jose Cardenas:
If that hadn't happened, would you still be objecting to the program?

>> Don Sorchych:
Yes, because it's illegal under federal law.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Mayor, what kinds of issues have you seen? The program has been in effect for six years or so. Why this discussion, rather heated discussion, at the meeting last Monday night. Why that discussion now?

>> Vincent Francia:
I think two reasons. The situation has been simmering. It's really never gone off the burner. It's been simmering for six years, and secondly, that which is going on in the nation's Capital with the Congress trying to deal with legislation regarding immigration. At this time, it just brought a focal point on last Monday evening when council met and brought the day laborer topic up for discussion.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Ralph, would you say the program was a success from your point of view?

>> Ralph Mozilo:
From our point of view, from the church's point of view, it was a success. And I want to correct something Mr. Sorchych said. I am not now nor have I ever been an official of the church or on the board of the church at all. I was just a member of the church. I was not aware of the cards as he mentioned, and the breakfast, to my knowledge, the town manager paid for. As it relates to the success of the program, it was successful in that it got a number of the day laborers off the street. That was the whole objective of that program, to try to get the day laborers away from the streets and away from the businesses and get them into one secure area. It was not a way to advocate illegal aliens or to advocate a program that said, you know, we welcome illegal aliens into this country. It was a program to try to help the town from the church's perspective in getting them off the streets. There was a humanitarian aspect of it. They do help these men when they come and say, ‘I'm sick, I have a toothache,' and they do get medical care and help for these individuals.

>> Jose Cardenas:
What do you say to claims such as the one Don Sorchych suggested, that it's brought more people there, people who wouldn't have been there otherwise?

>> Ralph Mozilo:
That's just an absolute falsehood. I have to tell you I know for a fact, because I lived in the town and saw in the town, that there were between 150-200 illegal aliens daily up and down the street. You just don't see that many anymore. The problem may be increasing, but it's not because of the church. The church really has not fostered these people coming up. If the church stopped tomorrow, there would be probably anywhere from 40 to 60 individuals out on the street that are now in the church parking lot.

>> Jose Cardenas:
And I want to go back to some of these issues, but mayor, let's make sure we talk about what happened Monday night.

>> Vincent Francia:
It was a good meeting of council for the community because it brought this topic out into light for everyone to voice their opinion on it. We took 90 minutes. It was a discussion item, not an action item for council. Fourteen speakers spoke; Representative Pearce spoke, and it was pretty much evenly divided. Seven speakers for the day laborer program, and seven against the program and illegal immigration, and it went well. For me, what I was able to glean from this is, on this particular issue there are two valuable dynamics at play. And both dynamics make this country what it is. One is the rule of law. It's how we've made ourselves into a wonderful society, and it works. The other aspect of that is compassion. I personally believe this is the most compassionate country on earth. We respond very quickly to tragedies around the world. So you have these two valuable dynamics, but in this particular instance, on this topic, that of immigration, of people coming into the country not legally, they're not getting along, those two dynamics, they're very much in friction.

>> Jose Cardenas:
What about the issues of economics and also the sense by some who may find the presence of people here illegally objectionable, but feel realistically something like a day labor center at least deals with some of the issues that led to the creation of the program in the first place?

>> Vincent Francia:
Well, it does. Ralph is correct in the sense when the program was created, it did get the day workers off the street, which was a problem, and centralized them so that those who wished to employ them come to the church park lot. At the same time, let no good deed go unpunished It also attracted other day laborers from Phoenix to come up to Cave Creek.

>> Jose Cardenas:
But Ralph says that's not true.

>> Vincent Francia:
I'm just, it's not a criticism by the way, it's just an observation that others came up from Phoenix, because there was this day labor program. Secondly, the hiring that was going on, there was a great deal of hiring going on in the Cave Creek area, and still is because of the construction that's going on, not only in the town, but the neighboring communities, and right south of us and Phoenix. So it's not criticism. I'm saying the program actually worked, it got them off the street and it got them into the auspices of the church parking lot where they could be hired. But it also attracted others because the program was successful.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Don, despite the success, if it was successful, you would be opposed to it because in your view it encourages law breaking.

>> Don Sorchych:
Limited success. But in the first place, I don't think any of them should be there, because they're in the country illegally. What really changed the numbers that Ralph mentioned of the 100 or 150 or whatever, was the town finally enforcing trespass laws and taking down the shanty towns, and one piece of property where a woman had 16 people living in one small house, and she was having them sleep in three shifts. It was that kind of enforcement and that kind of change in the town that took it from these hundreds. Right now the vice mayor counted 32. Usually count maybe 50 or 60 at most along the streets. But maybe only 15 down at the church. Still the overwhelming numbers are on the streets.

>> Jose Cardenas:
What's the alternative?

>> Don Sorchych:
The alternative is to enforce our immigration laws.

>> Jose Cardenas:
But so far that doesn't seem to have worked and there's still a lot of people. Don't you need to do something to deal with it?

>> Don Sorchych: You have the President of the United States who is sanctioning the breaking of our laws and our sovereignty, so what do you expect? However, Russell Pearce spoke eloquently on that subject, you know him, that there is no prohibition on local law enforcement enforcing federal laws. As a matter of fact, it's a responsibility. And I think when we get around to that, we'll have enforcement, and then we can begin to push this thing away.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Mayor, we're almost out of time. We've got about a minute or so, maybe less. Where does the issue stand now as a result of Monday night's meeting, what is going to happen?

>> Vincent Francia:
I asked the vice mayor and the councilmen to get with our constitutional law lawyers at the town's law firm, so that we can be very clear on what is legal and what is enforceable. They will bring something back to council on the first meeting of September. A possible solution, just a suggestion to this, might be - I spent 10 years of my life in Latin America and Mexico, and worked in Mexico. When I was in Mexico I needed a passport, a visa, and a work permit. Why is it so difficult that that cannot work the other way? I'm not talking about citizenship or granting amnesty, but at least to deal with a reality which is very much part of America. Because we're stalled, Congress is stalled, it's falling on to the local communities, and it will continue to do so. So let's start there, why not that? That's what I have to do in order to work and live in Mexico. Why can it not work coming into the United States for anyone?

>> Jose Cardenas:
We'll have to leave it at that. Thank you all three of you for appearing on " Horizonte."

Pedro E. Guerrero was the personal photographer of famous architects and artists, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder, and Louise Nevelson. His photographs have been exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, among others. Now a documentary about his life and work has been produced. Take a look at a sample of "Pedro E. Guerrero: Portrait of an Image Maker."

>> Pedro E. Guerrero:
I think I had that case made in 1900-something. We as photographers believe that we can capture architecture, but we have a two-dimensional system trying to interpret it in a three-dimensional reality. This was one of the first jobs I ever did, was the first architectural job I did. And I still feel the excitement coming back after all these years. When I started at Taliesin in 1940, color was just being developed. I think it was Kodachrome that became available. I had no idea then that, what, 63 years later, I would still be involved with Frank Lloyd Wright. So the payoff was a great one. It's been going on ever since.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Joining me is Suzanne Johnson, executive director for Gnosis Limited. She also was called the documentary's producer and director. Suzanne, thank you for joining us on
"Horizonte." First, tell us what Gnosis Ltd. is.

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Gnosis is a nonprofit organization for the arts and culture. We study the creative spirit and we present the creative process and try to demystify it.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Tell us who Pedro E. Guerrero is. I think many Arizonans know one of his grandsons, they know his brother, both of whom were artists in their own right. But I'm not sure too many people know him and yet he's quite a luminary.

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Pedro was born in Casa Grande and grew up in Mesa. He left Arizona to go to the Art Center School in Los Angeles. From there he came home and worked with Frank Lloyd Wright and after the war went to the east coast and lived in Connecticut for 50 years, working as a Shelter magazine photographer.

>> Jose Cardenas:
How did he come to meet Frank Lloyd Wright?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
I think Pedro would say he was lucky. His father, during the summer when he came home from school, from Art Center School, his father sent him to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin compound and said, you know, you need to get a job, because Pedro had this idea he was going to behave like Mathew Brady and get in a van and drive around the country and take photographs. And his dad said, no, no, no, you're going to work. So Pedro's father was a sign painter, and had done work for Mr. Wright, and Pedro drove from Mesa to Taliesin, which was in those days in the middle of nowhere, in Scottsdale, met Mr. Wright and was hired on the spot.

>> Jose Cardenas:
And the father became very successful in his business.

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Oh, he went on, he was very successful. Mr. Guerrero Sr. went on to found Rosarita Foods. He was a Rotarian, the first Mexican-American member in Arizona. He was a well-established man.

>> Jose Cardenas:
The relationship between the two of them - the father and the son?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Very close. But Pedro was a dove and during World War II, he had no intention of going. He really wanted to remain a conscientious objector, he was influenced by Mr. Wright. And his father said in no uncertain terms that Pedro would serve his country. So of course he went.

>> Jose Cardenas:
He did voice his objections to the Vietnam war, am I right?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
He was very vocal about his feelings about the Vietnam War. In fact in 1968 he ended up on the front page of the "New York Times." He was serving at that time as a member of the draft board in Connecticut, and it was a draft board that consisted of both Democrats and Republicans, and Pedro felt that just because he was against the war he didn't think it was reasonable that he should not represent the other side, another opinion.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Let's talk about how the documentary came about.

>> Suzanne Johnson: Well, Pedro was brought to my attention originally through the library of my husband's architectural library. My husband is an architect, so I was familiar with his photographs. If you look at Mr. Guerrero's archives, specifically, you're going to see pictures everybody is familiar with. So I was interested in who this man is. He's the guy that took the picture that everybody is so familiar with. Whether it be a Frank Lloyd Wright, or even the Alexander Calder stamp, he was responsible for that. He has countless images people are familiar with, but nobody knew who this man behind the lens is.

>> Jose Cardenas:
I looked at a few of them on the Web site. For example, a whole series of Frank Lloyd Wright's hands. Did he have a particular theory or philosophy of photography, Pedro Guerrero?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Pedro approached photography I think originally as a documentarian. His approach was as a fly on the wall. He never saw himself as an artist, yet he is now seen to have created art from other people's art, but that was never his approach. Very much part of his humility, he was there to record and to do the work that he was asked to do.

>> Jose Cardenas:
How did you put the project together? Tell us a little bit about that. Any trials and tribulations you ran into in making it happen?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Production is complicated, but really all I did was call him up at the request of my board of directors. He's very accessible. I called him and said we're very interested.

>> Jose Cardenas:
How old is he?

>> Suzanne Johsnon:
He'll be 90 this September. 90 years young, I may add.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Still working?

>> Suzanne Johsnson:
I don't know if he shoots anymore, but he certainly lectures, he writes, he is still very active politically, he still writes letters to the newspaper. He's a very engaged person.

>> Jose Cardenas:
You've had some screenings of the documentary already. What kind of reaction have you gotten?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
People have responded beautifully. I'm very humbled as a filmmaker to have people respond to this documentary, because of course this film is my interpretation of Mr. Guerrero's life. Yet he is the backbone of the story. It is told in his voice and through interviews with people who knew him or know of his work.

>> Jose Cardenas:
How would you characterize your interpretation of his life?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Pedro is a personal hero to me because of his integrity and his humanity, and his humility. His stand on the Vietnam war was very moving to me, because I was a young person in the late '60's, and I remember 1968 very well when he ended up on the front page of the "New York Times." I remember the tenor of the United States, I remember what it felt like. I loved the fact that he doesn't consider himself an artiste, yet he is a great artist. I think his photographs are themselves pieces of art. But he never has approached his work like that. He has a fabulous sense of humor. He's kind, he's compassionate, he has never forgotten having grown up and living his early days in Mesa, Arizona, and I think that has probably always been a way of guiding his life. He's a very warm human being.

>> Jose Cardenas:
We're just about out of time. How can people see the documentary?

>> Suzanne Johnson:
They can call me directly at the Gnosis office at 480-488-2691. They can access our Web site, gnosisltd.org. It is also being carried in bookstores and museum shops around the country. But the best bet is to call me directly. I'd be happy to send it out.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Hopefully people will be able to do that having watched this show. Thank you so much for joining us.

>> Suzanne Johnson:
Thank you for having me.

>> Jose Cardenas:
Thank you for joining us on this Thursday evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. From all of us at "Horizonte," have a good evening.

Don Sorchych: Publisher, ;

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