Telling the stories of Texas with photographs (and words too...)
I grew up a long way from Texas. I “hit the ground running” in rural Franklin County, North Carolina, not too far north of Raleigh. Many of my earliest memories revolve around my “Uncle Gene” (really great-uncle) Strickland, who lived next door. He taught me to stop and listen when the Seaboard Air Line Railroad trains came blowing through nearby Youngsville and to enjoy a Baby Ruth and Mountain Dew on a hot summer day at Lancaster’s Grocery, the old general store at the crossroads. We’d ride down there in his red-and-white 1963 Chevy Pickup on a regular basis and join the old farmers as they sat in the shade on the worn wooden benches and discussed their tobacco crops and fishing expeditions.
I was probably about ten years old when I realized that things were changing in my little rural community. Every year, there were fewer and fewer farmers sitting on the benches down at the crossroads. The old tobacco warehouse in Louisburg burned to the ground. The 1920s-era school I had attended was demolished. Subdivisions started popping up in fields where tobacco and corn had grown the year before. One by one, the weathered barns around my home started to disappear. Sure, I missed all these things after they were gone, but what really surprised me was that many people had never really given them more than a passing thought.
Like most photographers, I had access to cameras during my childhood, and I even briefly flirted with photography while on the yearbook staff in high school. My school was a small rural school with about six hundred students, so all we had in the camera department was a couple of point and shoot cameras and an old Nikon SLR that I don’t think had been used in some time. Naturally, it intrigued me.
I had a vague sense that if we were to take photos with that camera, we’d end up with much better material for the yearbook, so I pulled Mrs. Baker aside one day and mentioned wanting to use it, and she got really excited. Really, really excited. In short order I found myself with access to a large supply of T-Max 100 film and clearance to take the camera where I wanted and photograph whatever I wanted, whether or not it was directly related to the school. Many of the old buildings and barns that remained became my subject matter as I learned to use that camera.
Purchasing an SLR camera was out of the question at the time given my financial resources, so I dropped photography for a while. It wasn’t until my parents gave me a digital camera for Christmas in my mid-twenties that I really started to get into photography and began to play with perspective and framing. Then in 2015, I moved to Texas, and not long after that I took my first Saturday road trip. I’ve really fallen in love with this state, and I’m borderline obsessed with documenting the same sort of things that captivated me as a child.
I even met my wife, Margie, here in Texas! We got to know each other over some of those road trips. She is a fourth grade teacher, so Texas History is part of the curriculum— so from time to time I get to contribute to her lesson plans, which is really exciting!