Heritage, Volume 3, Number 4, Spring 1986 Page: 11
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Texas, in a wild state, an image of old Texas as
it might have appeared to the first settlers."
Few settlers probably had the energy or artistry
to see the romantic visions of Bones, whose
finely tuned eye transfer prints are so dramatic
they strain the color printers art.
Mary Peck's panoramic camera sometimes
comes to town. Mostly she shows the vast
landscape of the Panhandle; countryside
worked over and populated by people and
things that are dwarfed by their surroundings.
Paul Hester, George Krause, and Skeet McCauley
view an urban landscape, all with the
beautifully organized compositions of master
photographers. The people in their photographs
are reminescent of those included in
the 19th century landscape, tiny indicators of
the vast scale around them. Stuart D. Klipper's
color panoramics frame tightly on parts of
chemical plants and other typical Gulf Coast
environments to force us into complexities
rather than size as a concern.
Carol Cohen Burton and Frank Gohlke consider
more intimate environments. Cohen
Burton crafts color compositions from the
chaos of construction and endless roadways
that are too much a part of all our lives, and
she finds there as much formal beauty as Bones
does in wilderness. Gohlke gives us the personal
landscape of his growing up in North
Texas with a loving care that takes us into his
identity and helps us imagine what the icons
might be for our own Texas.
Two photographers did portrait portfolios.
Michael Murphy renders ten of the best
known "movers and shapers" in this state,
where personalities can be as outsized as the
territory. Murphy has a keen feel for story telling
environment and can engage real' charm
in his subjects, as with Dr. Michael Debakey
and Dr. Sally Ride. Gay Block in her portraits
of Texas artists has shot wider of her mark.
Sometimes one gets a sense of her subject's artwork
in her portraits, but often she misses real
contact with her subjects, either as private or
Three photographers used to telling stories
with their cameras present more varied portfolios.
Frank Armstrong studies how humans
effect landscape, usually long after the people
have gone. The results are elegant formal
studies of tone and texture that often achieve
irony or whimsy, as with the trees that have
separated on "Texas Highway 20" to let power
lines run between their parts. Ave Bonar's
documents of the lower Rio Grande valley
base a keen sense of what is important, irony
and pride. The man at the United Workers
State Headquarters, and Adalberto and Her
milia in their modest living room are as proud
as the socialite in McAllen. All are more cer
tain and comfortable than the "Illegals Crossing
under Bridge" or "Deportees in Custody of
Border Patrol," which Bonar has documented
to give us balance and remind us that just to
be part of contemporary Texas is still a goal for
many. Rick Williams' subjects in Albany,
Texas cope with realities of oilfields and
ranchland. Stacking pipe and cleaning stables
are not usually in the myths of these realms.
Rounding up strays and branding may seem romantic,
but Williams gets to the frustration
and effort as well as the energy and beauty
William's work shows the gift for being part of
life with a camera, actively involved with
others as they struggle with and enjoy their
experience to produce revealing and yet photographically
precise, artistic work from what
happens. Peter Helms Feresten and the team
of Frederick C. Baldwin and Wendy V. Watriss
also show that gift in their portfolios, both the
results of years of photographing the contemporary
black experience in Texas. They take
us deeply into the moment and the substance
of other lives with Feresten concentrating
more on groups and institutions. Each of the
Baldwin/Watriss photographs has an emotional
charge, a distillation of experience captured
in magically right fractions of a second,
seen at its best in a Saturday night dancer in a
pool hall. He is himself in spite of a camera
and a flash in his face. Unfortunately dark picture
reproduction is a minor irritation that
cannot hurt our sense of this man's energy and
For the future Contemporary Texas will take its
place alongside the photographs in Historic
Texas as significant documents of the Texas
that was. The work should also be highly regarded
for its photographic merit, whether
considered history, documentary, art, or just
photography. Like Historic Texas, there are too
many riches in the volume to summarize
briefly. Taken together, the two volumes are a
remarkable group effort.
J. B. Colson is a Professor of Journalism at
the University of Texas at Austin.
HERITAGE SPRING 86
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 3, Number 4, Spring 1986, periodical, March 1, 1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45441/m1/11/: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.