U.S – Mexico Border, Tijuana, Mexico, 2002



For the past 30 years, Paul Turounet’s practice has applied the strategies of photography, writing, sculpture, installation, and artist books. The work adapts form to explore and personalize an expansive range of subjects with a neutrality that hovers outside the social, cultural and political implications that it addresses. Our personal and collective psychologies are confronted in the physical landscapes of history, culture and the environment.

Perspective is apt to shift. The abstract tends to seem clear and definitive. Reality can be more subtle, ambiguous and open to a greater interpretation.







Series Highlights

Somewhere Out There, Something Is Happening – ongoing series of artist books of photographs and fragmentary text, meditating on the physical places and psychological spaces of the social scene in the United States, including Little Big Horn & Wounded Knee, the Manzanar War Relocation Center, voting rights movement in Philadelphia, Mississippi, aftermath of JFK assassination in Dallas, the effects of an EF-5 tornado in Joplin and the Pulse Nightclub tragedy.

Beneath the Dirt of Great Men – photographs and sculpture examining the transformation of the petroleum landscape in the Permian Basin of Texas and the impending climate challenges.

Gardens of Paradise – large-scale photographs that delve into the promises of cheap companionship and fantasy advertised on the seductive escort cards of women that eventually become discarded and submerged in the symbols of extravagance and vanity of the fountains along the Las Vegas Strip.

Estamos Buscando A – a 15-year long series of intimate portraits and landscape photographs and narrative texts, witnessing the migrant experience in Mexico along the U.S. – Mexico border, including site-specific installations on the border wall in Tijuana, a self-published migrant guide book, and culminating in an immersive gallery installation with a 64-foot long x 12-foot high border wall that foresaw and realized the increasing nationalistic tone that was being established by the Trump Administration.

Tierra Brava – traverses a personal psychological space within the color of a place mired in contradictions, the U.S. – Mexico border, a place that is in a constant search for its own sense of identity, juggling the traditions of culture and history of the interior with the pleasures and promises of prosperity and a better life of its northern neighbor.

Exhibition Highlights

Extraction: An Expansive Survey of Land Use Through the Lens of Consumption at University of Wyoming, 2021

Transborder Biennial 2018 | Bienal Transfronteriza 2018 at the El Paso Museum of Art, Texas and Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

Estamos Buscando A – Border Wall at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, Arizona, 2017

Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards 2016 at various venues including the Aperture Foundation in New York, Ivorypress in Madrid, Spain and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le Locle, Switzerland

Gardens of Paradise – jdc Fine Art, San Diego, California, 2014

Tierra Brava – Fotoseptiembre 1998 at Centro Cultural Tijuana, Mexico


Aperture Foundation

California Museum of Photography

Carleton College

Colorado College

Cranbrook Academy

DePaul University

Museum of Photographic Arts

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library

Scripps College – Denison Library

Stanford University

University of California at Berkeley – Bancroft Library Pictorial Collections

University of California at Riverside

University of California at Santa Cruz

University of Chicago

University of Cincinnati – Elliston Poetry Collection

University of Southern California

University of Utah

Utah State University

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Yale University Art Gallery

Yale University – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library





Born in 1962 and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paul Turounet earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from San Jose State University in 1985 and his Master of Fine Arts – Photography degree from Yale University in 1995. He received a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Fellowship in 1997, and grants from the TransBorder Institute at the University of San Diego in 2003 and 2004.

His self-published book, Estamos Buscando A – We’re Looking For, was shortlisted and a runner-up for the 2016 Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation First PhotoBook Award, and was also selected as one of ten books for the New York Times – The Best Photo Books of 2016.

Since 2005, he has been a Professor of Photography at Grossmont College and previously taught at the University of San Diego and the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente in Guadalajara, Mexico for the University of San Diego’s Guadalajara Summer Program. He currently resides in San Diego, California.



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Gallery Representation





Paul Turounet Interview with Abbey Hepner


Conversation about photographing in Mexico along the U.S. – Mexico border for nearly 20 years, including Tierra Brava and Estamos Buscando A, and what happens when observation leads to the transformation of the photographer’s beliefs and values.