6.27.2018

Photography as cultural record keeping. Looking at vanishing "Texas" in growing Austin.


This shot is part of a series of original buildings that lined Congress Ave., the street that leads right up to the state capitol. Congress used to be lined with many two and three story brick or stone buildings that had been there since early days. The image above is of the side of a building that started out as a clothing store and at some point became the home of one of our city's most beloved Mexican food restaurants; Las Manitas.

The whole block was recently demolished and flattened to make way for the amazingly bland J.W. Marriott Hotel. A cookie cutter convention hotel that, I am sure, generates money hand over fist for the Marriott corporation. I'm sure the property now also generates thousands of times the tax revenues of the old restaurant and also the surrounding businesses that proceeded the hotel. We've gained some revenue and lost a bit of our heritage.

Progress waits for no one. At least we have a continuing series of photographs that tells a two dimensional story of what was there.

Shot eight years back with an Olympus E-1 and a 50mm macro lens.

Photograph the stuff you grew up with before it vanishes. You might want to reminisce.

3 comments:

  1. I hope the bats under the Congress Bridge don't vanish as well. Sure is cool to see all 1.5 million of them bug-out at dusk!

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  2. Gained some revenue and lost a bit of our heritage...I think that nicely sums up what constitutes North American culture. I live in the Toronto area. I can drive for hours in any direction and it looks exactly the same. Absolutely identical, no exaggeration. It's the same chains, same big box stores, same street layouts, same style homes, same gas stations, same construction sites and bulldozers. There is no sense of neighborhood, nothing at all unique about different regions of my beautiful province of Ontario. They bulldoze prime farmland and put up the same shit everywhere. I think of the beautiful European cities I have visited. They respect, celebrate and preserve their history. In Rome when they build they often uncover pieces of the Roman empire once they start digging. Construction comes to a halt and the historical organizations move in and the construction site becomes an archeological dig. If it's a significant find, guees what? No more construction there. London seems to have figured out how to build while maintaining their wonderful history and architecture. The North American approach..bulldoze it, put up a brand name.

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  3. In a world of video calls, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook it is easy for people to forget the real power of making photographs. Cameras are time machines, they freeze a slice of time, and as we rush forward through time the resulting photographs allow us to pause and travel back to a person, place, object, or moment that might otherwise be lost. Pictures, still or motion, accomplish this in a way that even our own memory cannot reliably accomplish.

    From a purely historical perspective, making photographs of a vanishing world is a priceless pursuit. It defines some of my favorite photographers like David Plowden, who spent decades training his camera on the disappearing towns and farms of the Great Plains. Or Carl Weese, a traditional large format photographer who (via non-traditional funding from Kickstarter) spent six weeks in 2012 crossing the country to document the remaining (operating or not) Drive-In theaters in the US.

    I see a lot of your own street photography as falling into this category. So many photographs you share will age like a fine wine, only growing in significance as the urban landscape of Austin continues to change, most likely at an alarming rate as the metro continues to grow unabated.

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