Photographs By Tammy Cromer Campbell Essays By Phyllis Glazer Roy Flukinger Eugene Hargrove And Marvin Legator (5)
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A Tear in the Lens

Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell. Essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, and Marvin Legator University of North Texas Press PDF

A Tear in the Lens

Roy Flukinger

Sometimes the well dent is visible, where once a spring oozed; now dry and tearless grass; or it was covered deep, not to be discovered till some late day, with a flat stone under the sod, when the last of the race departed. What a sorrowful act must that be, the covering up of wells! coincident with the opening of wells of tears. These cellar dents, like deserted fox burrows, old holes, are all that is left where once were the stir and bristle of human life … henry david thoreau, Walden

The great educator Robert Coles was once showing the work of a number of Farm Security

Administration photographers—those lean and rich documents of America in the 1930s—to some young students. One student in particular, Lawrence Jefferson, was drawn to the work of Marion Post Wolcott—one of the less well-known but perhaps the most ethically committed of all these federal photographers. Coles was curious to know why and Jefferson had a succinct but telling response: “She’s more upset with what’s wrong than anyone else.”

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Fruit of the Orchard

Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell. Essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, and Marvin Legator University of North Texas Press PDF

Fruit of the Orchard tammy cromer-campbell

Tammy Cromer-Campbell

I begin this story with a profound dream that changed my life. In 1993, I dreamed I was protesting with a group of courageous people from Winona, Texas, in a grassy field.

Background

Winona is a rural Texas community of 500 people living downwind of a toxic-waste injectionwell facility built in 1982. Photographs of these residents reveal the tragic results many believe are associated with toxic emissions and contaminants from the American Ecology

Environmental Services toxic-waste facility (formerly known as Gibraltar). The community was originally told that Gibraltar would install a salt-water injection-well facility and plant fruit orchards on the remaining land. Instead, trucks and trains from all over the U.S. and

Mexico came to Winona to dump toxic waste into the open-ended wells. No fruit orchards were ever planted. It was not until 1992, when the residents began to fear the long-term effects of the various emissions and odors emanating from the facility, that Phyllis Glazer formed Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins (moses). In March 1997, the facility announced its shutdown, citing continued opposition by moses as the reason.

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Plates

Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell. Essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, and Marvin Legator University of North Texas Press PDF
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Preventing Future Winonas

Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell. Essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, and Marvin Legator University of North Texas Press PDF

Preventing Future Winonas

Dr. Eugene Hargrove

The Limits of Environmental Justice in the United States

Concerns about environmental justice and environmental racism are usually focused on large population centers, and more specifically on the poor urban neighborhoods in which the majority of the residents are minorities, usually black or Hispanic. The Environmental

Protection Agency is currently looking into ways to deal with these environmental justice issues, focusing on the identification of problem areas. In these surveys, industrialized sites in urban areas stand out starkly in comparison with rural areas. Sadly, small towns do not end up even as a blip on the radar scope in these surveys. Moreover, given that the epa efforts are underfunded, the agency has no significant resources to devote to places like Winona.

Overcoming the Burden of Proof: Proving Harm

Once damage has occurred, the only course of action is usually legal, either to try to stop the pollution if it is ongoing or to seek compensation. Winning, however, is difficult because it is hard to demonstrate a causal connection between the actions of the alleged polluters and the alleged damage to human health, property, and the environment. Consider smoking and lung cancer. Smoking is a necessary, but not a sufficient, cause of lung cancer. It is a necessary cause because most people who have lung cancer also turn out to be smokers. It is not a sufficient cause, however, because there are also many people who smoke all of their lives without getting cancer. As a result, it is easier to explain the cause of lung cancer after someone has it than to predict that any particular person will get it. The case for smoking as a cause of lung cancer, nevertheless, is very strong because over many decades in the twentieth century statistics became available showing that most people who developed lung cancer also smoked. These kinds of statistics, however, are generally not available in air and water pollution cases. Usually there is not a single contaminant involved, but rather a mix of contaminants, and the mix of contaminants may vary from site to site.

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Toxicological Myths

Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell. Essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, and Marvin Legator University of North Texas Press PDF

Toxicological Myths

Dr. Marvin Legator

In the never-ending battle to clean up our environment and make our world safer for humanity, individuals and organizations that profit from polluting the environment have developed a series of scenarios to obfuscate the human effects of exposure to toxic substances. The underlying assumption of toxic waste facilities, and frequently state and federal agencies, is that they know more about the technical aspects of toxicology than the victims of chemical exposure. This arrogance is often manifested in the unnecessary use of technical jargon and misleading or confusing factual information. Informed residents who are knowledgeable as to the adverse health effects of chemical exposure have repeatedly challenged the toxic waste facilities and frequently persevered in obtaining necessary remedial action. The informed citizens of Winona, Texas, are outstanding examples of how to fight for environmental justice and challenge the questionable assertions of the toxic waste facility as well as state and federal agencies. In 1997, moses (Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins), under the leadership of one of our present-day environmental heroines, Phyllis Glazer, was instrumental in shutting down the major polluting facility in the community of Winona.

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Malcolm L Fleming (19)
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10 Rules of the Occupying US Army

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

“Off-Limits” signs that greet the GI on every civilian door. Those on certain stores were later qualified by “Except for business reasons.” Also on each door was the name and age of all occupants. The great age gap amongst the males was readily apparent.

Gardelegen, Ger—27 May ’45

Civilians scan the bulletin board for the latest Military Govt notices.

Wetzlar, Ger—16 May ’45

The predecessor of all such, Proclamation No. 1. Well-known especially for the sentence, “We come as conquerors, not as oppressors,” it is all worth reading.

Gardelegen, Ger—27 May ’45

Some of the following attempts
to copy fine print in the field
are inadequate, but titles
at least give the main intent
.

The Curfew Notice is quite legible. Interesting to note how all are printed in both English and German. The little notice below concerns the turning in of all firearms to the police.

Gardelegen, Ger—27 May ’45

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11 Wartime Destruction

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

This greatest synthetic oil plant in Germany, the Leuna Werk, was bombed 22 times and was forced to cut its production to ¼ its capacity. This and other interesting facts I got from a French slave laborer who worked in the office of the plant and kept track of all the raids. He now is serving the American Military Govt in the city as an interpreter.

Near Merseburg, Ger—6 May ’45

On Nov. 2, 1944, during the 12th raid on this vital Leuna Werk, the B-17 that my friend, Bob Campbell, was piloting was hit by flak, set afire, and forced down.

Near Merseberg, Ger—6 May ’45

Huge statue of Emperor Ludwig, the Bavarian, stands serene in the desolate city center. 171 winding steps bring fools and photographers groping through pitch blackness up to the top of the 125 ft pedestal. See next photo.

Darmstadt, Ger—13 May ’45

Burned-out shells that once were the city’s important buildings. The Air Force must have had a grudge to settle here. All damage is said to have been caused by a single raid with incendiary bombs. View is from a statue-topped tower.

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12 People on the Move following Victory in Europe, May 7

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

Part of the lineup waiting to cross a narrow bridge. Traffic was one way at a time and very slow. The VE Day news is out, and many of these people are former slave laborers making a break for it.

Weissenfels, Ger—8 May ’45

Young German farm folk, looking a bit amused at the prospect of having their pic taken. They are stopped at a checking station at the end of town and an MP is investigating their wagonload behind for stowaways etc.

Sangershausen, Ger—11 May ’45

The CIC and Photo Units of 3d Armd. pause for a rest and ration stop on the autobahn to Frankfurt.

Between Sangerhausen and Frankfurt, Ger—12 May ’45

Presumably in VE Day glee, American fighters swarm playfully over Frankfurt.

Near Frankfurt, Ger—12 May ’45

Wreckage in the streets of Frankfurt am Maine. The nuns wearing packs and carrying suitcases appear to be on the move to some more habitable city or place of greater need.

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13 Displaced Persons, or DPs—A Nice Name for Slave Labor

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

By hand and by cart these former slave laborers move their “households” onto the waiting trains for Russia, where, their homes perhaps destroyed, they must begin again from scratch.

Chemnitz, Ger—2 June ’45

Having just piled off American trucks, these Russian DPs haven’t just yet found out how to get their duffels to the train.

Thousands of these people are arriving here daily from all over American-occupied Germany. We had just filmed a story of 1,200 being brought from Ohrdruf, 85 miles distant. Finding ourselves for the first and last time with a little freedom in a Russian-occupied German city, we snooped a bit. The Germans we talked to were glad to see Americans, wondering how long we were going to stay, and complaining about the skimpy ration of food.

Chemnitz, Ger—2 June ’45

Polish children hungrily munch an afternoon snack of rations that were once in the Red Cross PW Packages. This is part of the DP Camp’s nursery program.

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14 German Village and Country Life

Malcolm L. Fleming Indiana University Press ePub

Children wait for their daily measure of milk. The lady has a horse-drawn wagon which she stops at each street corner, ringing a bell to rouse the nearby housewives.

Gardelegen, Ger—23 May ’45

Little fellow makes his way to the Mulberg town bakery balancing on his head the pie his mother sent him with.

Near Gotha, Ger—9 June ’45

Farmhands are exceedingly scarce these days. Age is no exemption from manual labor. Youngsters usually come to the fields with their folks. Another way of thinking about this photo is as “War’s Residue, the Very Old and Very Young.”

Sangerhausen, Ger—11 May ’45

They couldn’t help giggling at the two American soldiers who stopped their Peep and walked clear out in the field just to take pictures of them. The youngest is ten, and they work about nine hours a day.

Near Gardelegen, Ger—29 May ’45

Husky and hard-working, but not eager to be photographed in such a role. The German people are surprisingly alert to the propaganda possibilities of pictures and hence object to posing for any that might show them in an unfavorable light, not so much as individuals, but as representative Germans.

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Ken W Kramer (13)
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A Taste of the Marsh

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Susan Raleigh Kaderka

AS we walked down to the saltmarsh near the observation tower on Mad Island Marsh Preserve, Cathy Porter bent over and broke off a sprig of saltwort, a spiky succulent that grows in clumps by the water’s edge. “Taste it,” she said, offering me a piece and putting a bit into her own mouth. It was an idle gesture, something she’s probably done countless times leading groups of schoolchildren on tours of this 7,000-acre Nature Conservancy preserve. She had been naming off the various species of marsh vegetation for me—seablight, Gulf cordgrass, saltmarsh bulrush—and just come across one worth tasting.

True to its name, the plant tasted salty. As Porter no doubt points out to visiting students, it is well adapted to the conditions of the Texas Gulf Coast, thriving near salt water in a sandy soil. But as I chewed it, a different landscape suddenly came to mind. For a moment, I was back in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, where I lived up to the age of six.

Like most children growing up in the late 1950s, I spent almost all of my free time outdoors. This habit was not evidence of any special affinity for nature. It did not prefigure my later work in wildlife conservation. It was not unique to me at all; it was what everyone did. Childhood pretty much took place out of doors. If you were indoors, it meant it was raining, or nighttime, or, later, that you were in school. Even in winter we played outdoors, bundled up in hooded snowsuits, rubber boots, and mittens. Snapshots of my sister and me in the snowy field opposite our house show us smiling out at the camera from jackets so thick our arms stuck out from our sides. But unquestionably we were outside.

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Appendix Selected List of Conservation Organizations Interested in Texas Water Issues

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

The Bayou Preservation Association (BPA) is a citizens’ group whose mission is to “protect and restore the richness and diversity of our waterways.” BPA facilitates collaborative projects and public awareness about the region’s streams and bayous in order to foster watershed management, conservation, and recreation along Houston’s defining natural resource.

Website: www.bayoupreservation.org

Phone: 713-529-6443

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 131563

Houston, TX 77219-1563

The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Texas is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of Texas’ marine resources. Founded more than a quarter of a century ago, CCA Texas (then GCCA) has been instrumental in banning gill nets in state waters, establishing redfish and speckled trout as gamefish, building two of the largest red drum hatcheries in the world, and working to ensure that adequate fresh water reaches Texas’ bays and estuaries.

Website: www.ccatexas.org

Phone: 713-626-4222 or 1-800-626-4222

Mailing Address:

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Falling in Love With Bottomlands Waters and Forests of East Texas

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Janice Bezanson

I FELL in love with East Texas bottomland forests while trying to protect them. for most people it’s the other way around: they love them first, so they want to keep them from being cut down, paved over, turned into pasture, or flooded by reservoirs. But I got involved in conservation issues as an activist first. The late Ned fritz, legendary for recruiting people to do things they didn’t know they wanted to do, coaxed my husband and me into representing Texas Conservation Alliance, then called the Texas Committee on Natural Resources, in permit hearings against a proposed reservoir on Little Cypress Creek in the Cypress Creek Basin in northeast Texas. This boondoggle project wasn’t needed for water supply and would have flooded 14,000 acres of wonderful forest wildlife habitat.

A glance at history suggests that I’m not the only one who loves bottomlands. People have always lived close to rivers, seeking the basics of life—water, food, transportation, and shelter—from the river and the fertile land it nurtures. Rivers are the essence of the southeastern United States—land formed by the ebb and flow of ancient beaches and shaped by abundant rainfall, rivers, and the passage of time. Small ephemeral streams bubbling up from drift sands become creeks that converge and gather in ever-increasing volume. They become winding rivers that spill across wide floodplains and spawn diverse bottomland forests. These rivers and their “bottoms” capture the imagination of poets and musicians and the hearts of settlers who revel in their beauty and mystery and abundant life.

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Hooked on Rivers

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Myron J. Hess

I LOVE being outdoors. Those rare times when I am able to step back from the frenzied pace of everyday life and feel in rhythm with nature give me an incredible sense of peace, of calmness. And, if you throw in a flowing river or stream, I can get close to achieving a state of nirvana. The love of nature came early. The appreciation of the special role of flowing streams developed a bit later.

As the youngest of seven children growing up in Cooke County in rural North Texas near the Oklahoma border at a time when TV watching was still an occasional event and computer games were science fiction material, I spent the bulk of my early childhood outside. When my siblings were home, I followed them around as much as they would let me. When they had all started school and I was still at home, the yard became my preschool and kindergarten classroom. Fortunately for me, farmyards can be incredibly interesting places: chickens and ducks to observe, ground squirrels and lizards to stalk, insects and toads to catch, and bird and mouse nests to discover. I think my dad was relieved to see me start school so he didn’t have to spend so much of his time answering my questions about what I had found or seen, and he could get back to farming full time.

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Introduction The Living Waters of Texas

Ken W Kramer Texas A&M University Press ePub

Ken Kramer

THE power of water. As I craft these words of introduction to The Living Waters of Texas, I am actually far away from the Lone Star State—on vacation enjoying the natural beauty of Jasper and Banff national parks in the Canadian Rockies, a land defined in many ways by the sheer physical power of water. Impressive glaciers, raging waterfalls, clear mountain streams, and beautiful lakes exist throughout this incredible land. To see how the glaciers have shaped the terrain and how roaring rivers have carved their way through the land, moving immense boulders along the way, produces a sense of awe at the amazing power of nature and the water features that are often its agents of change.

Water also has the power to give and sustain life—for fish and wildlife, for the organisms on which they feed, for plants, and for humans. Indeed the life of our planet could not exist without water.

Water has a power for human beings, however, that goes far beyond its physical force and its life-sustaining qualities. Water has the power to fascinate us, to excite and entertain us, to inflame our passions, and to inspire us to action. For many of us, myself included, there is no more intriguing topic than water. Indeed our efforts to describe it, manage it, protect it, enjoy it, and celebrate it have often defined our very lives.

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Henry Plummer (5)
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1: Simplicity ~ Pristine Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

1

SIMPLICITY ~ PRISTINE LIGHT

White-Painted Woodwork Meetinghouse (1820) Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

MONOTONE MASS

The radical simplification produced by a single exterior color, characteristic of Shaker architecture, serves to unite each form, while accentuating the play of light over a surface, enveloping the whole in a subdued atmosphere. These monochromatic effects, free of either visual friction or excitement, range from the absolute purity of a white meetinghouse, to the monotone crust of stone or brick around a dwelling, or continuous coat of yellow paint on a workshop.

White Limestone Façade First West Family Dwelling (1811–12) Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

Yellow-Painted Volume Brethren's Shop (1810) Hancock, Massachusetts

PURE WHITE CAVITY

A spotless surface of smooth plaster and white paint serves to purify Shaker space. This image of perfection reveals the slightest sign of dirt, is devoid, one might even say absolved, of darkness, and is inherently ethereal, reduced to nothing but sheer light.

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2: Order ~ Focused Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

2

ORDER ~ FOCUSED LIGHT

Window above Stair to Roof Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

MESMERIZING WINDOW

The Shaker striving for order and calm gave a prominent visual role to the window, which often appears as the seminal force around which a room is developed. This centering power is magnified by simple geometry, symmetric placement, empty walls, and a halo-like frame, which are all further strengthened by a radiating pattern of light from a still source.

Ministry Hall Meetinghouse (1794) Sabbathday Lake, Maine

Window Triptych Center Family Dwelling House (1822–33) South Union, Kentucky

Window Diptych Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

Meetingroom Church Family Dwelling House Hancock, Massachusetts

INCANTATION

The repetition of standardized elements in Shaker architecture served basic needs of economy and order, while ensuring anonymity and plainness, but also gave to every room a calming rhythm that served the spirit. This reverberation, suggestive of the rise and fall of a fugue or chant, is especially pronounced in the Shaker meetinghouse, whose windows shed a mesmerizing pulse of energy. Alternating rays of light echo into broad stripes of white plaster, divided by lines of blue paint on wooden beams, knee braces, and peg rails. As a result, tremulous patterns of light and dark envelop the entire worship space, and its sacred dance, in a visual incantation, whose simple waves could instantly soothe mind and soul, and invoke a faintly mystical spell.

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3: Luminosity ~ Inner Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

3

LUMINOSITY ~ INNER LIGHT

Corner of Attic Center Family Dwelling House South Union, Kentucky

MAXIMUM FENESTRATION

In their efforts to squeeze as much daylight as possible into buildings, Shakers pierced the outer walls with closely spaced windows, allowing illumination to stream in from every side. As the most sacred place in the Shaker settlement, and the nearest thing to heaven on earth, the meetinghouse was made especially airy and bright by a continuous band of repeating windows. But rendered almost as porous, and at times cathedral-like, were utilitarian buildings such as laundries and machine shops, tanneries and poultry houses, mills and barns.

Circles of Windows on Tree Different Levels Round Barn (1826, rebuilt 1865) Hancock, Massachusetts

Meetingroom Windows Meetinghouse (1792–93, moved from Shirley to Hancock 1962) Hancock, Massachusetts

INTERIOR SHUTTERS

The internal shutters with which windows are equipped at Canterbury and Enfield permit a range of lighting adjustments. At Enfield's dwelling house, a four-shutter system allows each panel to be operated independently, or in combination with others, so that light can be regulated at will, like a camera aperture, according to weather, temperature, and human activity. When the shutters are opened, they fold back and disappear into window reveals.

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4: Equality ~ Shared Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

4

EQUALITY ~ SHARED LIGHT

Transom over Dining Room Doors Church Family Dwelling House Hancock, Massachusetts

TRANSOM WINDOW

Transom windows, frequently placed by Shakers above inner as well as outer doors, provide a means to increase the light shared between neighboring rooms, and maintain this flow even when doors are fully closed. Interior transoms are typically set over doors connecting dark corridors and well-lit perimeter rooms, and take shapes ranging from multi-paned rectangles to arched or semicircular fanlights.

Fanlight between Kitchen and Dining Room Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

Arched Transom over Infirmary Door Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

INTERIOR WINDOW

The stretching of light, and the open feeling, afforded by an interior window are especially impressive when able to transform an utterly mundane space, such as a back stair or closet. An ingenious device to siphon daylight deeply into a building, this glazed opening serves also to share illumination between rooms demanding acoustic separation, so as to spread light in a peaceful way, free of disrupting noise.

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5: Time ~ Cyclic Light

Henry Plummer Indiana University Press ePub

5

TIME ~ CYCLIC LIGHT

Ministry Hall Meetinghouse Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

SHADOW PLAY ON LIMESTONE

Pleasant Hill's limestone dwellings are extremely responsive to shifting skies. Displayed upon their white volumes are all of the sun's refracted colors, including faint hues often missed by the human eye. With its walls aligned to the cardinal points, each building behaves as a gnomon, registering and showing the flow of shade from plane to plane, as well as at the microscale of masonry texture, produced on the Center dwelling by raised white mortar.

Grazing Sun on East Façade at Noon Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

View from Southeast at Dawn Center Family Dwelling House Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

SPECTRAL COLORS

The absolute white of a Shaker meetinghouse, as prescribed by the Millennial Laws, gave each village a spiritual center of maximum purity and radiance. But maximized also on the plain and highly reflective clapboards was a visibility of each passing moment, and each new emanation of sun. Melting the sky into walls are delicate tones of colored light, ranging from the soft grays of overcast weather and starched whites of clear days, to the transparent yellows and violets arriving early and late, and deeper blues and oranges of twilight.

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Byrd M Williams Iv (10)
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Landscape

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Self portrait on college notebook, Austin, Texas. BYRD II 1903

“The edge of the photograph dissects familiar forms, and shows the unfamiliar fragment. It creates the shapes that surround objects. The photographer edits the meanings and patterns of the world through an imaginary frame. This frame is the beginning of this picture's geometry. It is to the photograph as the cushion is to the billiard table.”

–JOHN SZARKOWSKI

Byrd Williams II began to photograph the landscape around the turn of the century. When he finished his bachelor's degree in Austin, he took a number of survey and construction projects around the west in search of permanent employment. This could entail any number of duties from drafting to site photography of project progress. During this period he voraciously photographed the American landscape with an eye for visual starkness and geometric efficiency.

Letter From Mary Alice Williams to her son Byrd II

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Night

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

WHEN I WAS A KID MY FRIENDS AND I WOULD HANG OUT on the street corners at night under the mercury vapor lights that provided a 200-foot circle of pasty illumination. If one of us had a paper route with the Fort Worth Press or Star Telegram, we were allowed to remain until sunrise when the newspapers had to be rolled and thrown to neighborhood subscribers. Our parents were more than happy to encourage our entrepreneurial spirit, inadvertently handing us the key to the city…at night.

For a twelve-year-old, it was one's first taste of unencumbered freedom. The summer sidewalks were still warm but the breeze was cool and no authority what-so-ever was in sight. Of course there was a bit of early ‘60s mischief, but for the most part, it was just fun being there.

I continued to roam the city at night for the rest of my life, as did my Dad. We never talked about the source of our fascination with gloomy urban spaces, but I know mine and can guess his. Cities are lit like movie sets.

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Non-People

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Ancient Egyptian bar vs. modern French Bar

I LOVE THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ENCLOSURES that humans occupy. The places where they sleep, eat, and work say more about humanity than a facial portrait can. For decades I have found comfort in mapping these interior spaces for commissions and curiosity. The preponderance of this large body of work is mostly personal images that are less art than artifact. More like utilitarian stamp collecting.

I started photographing my grade school friends’ rooms in the 1950s, and this subject matter is still my main work today. All three of my photographic ancestors made time exposures of the rooms and spaces they encountered, one of the first being a hardware store in Gainesville, Texas, in the late 1880s.

Sometimes there are people in them, both blurry and sharp, and sometimes they are devoid of life. I tend to like the lifeless ones best because then the room gets to speak for itself. These enclosures often live longer than the people who worked and lived in them and sometimes the photographs live longer than either, as stated by art critic Janet Tyson:

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People

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

Title page to Byrd III photograph album

THE FACES THAT INHABIT ONE'S LIFE are also connected to a mutually shared experience, whether it is an insider that occupies the fabric of your reality or a transient in and out of your orbit like a waiter in a restaurant, never to be seen again.

All of the Byrd Williamses made portraits for a variety of reasons. Sometimes as a hired hand for vanity, sometimes for editorial information, but much of the time it was for nothing. For lack of a better term, it was for art.

Shortly after arriving in Gainesville, Texas, my great-grandfather set about photographing people he encountered. An untrained but enthusiastic amateur, his work included carefully executed records of local acquaintances, an endeavor common to the new “roll film” era photography was entering.

By 1885, Granddad had taken up the hobby and was encouraged by earning extra money shooting portraits of locals across the range of hamlets between Fort Worth and the Red River. Small communities within wagon distance of Gainesville that featured churches and the occasional town square such as Myra, Era, Muenster, Henrietta, Sanger, Bowie, and Whitesboro. Wherever he lived, my grandfather continued making two-dimensional replicas of people's faces for the rest of his life.

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Photographs

Byrd M. Williams IV University of North Texas Press ePub

WALKING INTO THIS ARCHIVE is to walk among the dead. Many I knew and many I am just getting to know through their words and faces, but now I am one of the last remaining survivors in this Borgesian library of images. It was fiendishly comical when I noticed the irony of what has taken place: Middle class transubstantiation. Instead of bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Christ, four generations of my forebears’ bodies and blood have turned into paper and silver.

For me, photography is about death. It didn't used to be, but I'm sixty-four and everybody in the room is dead and I can't remember why I was so obsessed with saving their lives in two-dimensional facsimile. Perhaps all these years I have been trying to nail down what Ian McEwen refers to as our brief spark of consciousness.

It was never about the money; I could have done better mowing lawns. There was always this urgency about it: save all historic buildings, remember all the faces, stand on all the street corners, save everybody's toilet, share my experience with posterity, I was alive goddammit.

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