A portrait – a snapshot in time – requires a relationship. A photographer steps into pre-existing relationships, capturing the play of light on a surface then meant to be shared and sometimes shared with the people in the frame they created. All photographs emerge from these relationships.
In November 2019, a group of Texas State based photographers worked with artist Will Wilson (Dine), learning tintype techniques alongside the overlapping history of the American capture of native communities and Dine’ lives in prisons and photographs after Civil War times.
The portraits included here were completed after the photo exchange and were first printed during the first COVID19 wave in Texas.
What brings these portraits and photographers together is their experience on many sides of the tintype photo exchange, their ongoing work with photography and their commitment to challenge hierarchies embedded in a more democratic and inclusive practice of photography.
Director, Center for the Study of the Southwest
Will Wilson and Noelita Lugo, Noelita Lugo and Will Wilson, CIPX, San Marcos, 11/16/2019. Image reproduced courtesy of Will Wilson and Noelita Lugo.
Reflection: My mother never likes to be photographed. I was trusted to only photograph the parts of her I see when I close my eyes. We have been distant because of Covid. My mother has always had a great head of hair, thick, lustrous, shiny and black. She hasn’t worn it down in two decades. When I think of her, I see her ponytail or her thick bun from behind reflecting the light. She talks with her hands, they look just like her mother’s. At early mass on Sunday's I would play with my grandmother’s veiny hands and roll her wedding band around her ring finger. A heavy earring ripped my mother’s earlobe when she was younger. It left behind an opening that resembled a mouth right next to her second piercing. As a child I would fashion it to look like PacMan. As the distance between us grows, these are the memories I carry with me.
Trajectory: Brandy Hill is a photographer based in South Texas. Her work revolves around motherhood and family storytelling. She revives stories from her past to better understand the self and the imagined future. Her family is featured throughout her work. Brandy aspires to obtain an M.F.A. in the future and to remain in the continuous pursuit of visual storytelling.
Reflection: These images are of Gety, also known as ‘Nanna’ - my husband's maternal grandmother. In her kitchen, three generations together; in her room, holding up a picture of herself as a young woman; on Eid, hosting the family. In these photos Nanna is at the center - the matriarch - bringing together the past and the present.
When I asked Nanna if I could make her picture (much to my surprise) she didn’t hesitate. During the session she also unexpectedly brought out an old magazine from Pakistan, of which she was featured on the cover. It was from 1967 when Nanna was just 20 years old, fashioning a block-printed sari. She held out the image of herself and I snapped a picture. There began our collaboration where we managed to collapse the past with the present. Since I am a member of the family her past is now my past; her future is my future, too.
Trajectory: Ruby Longoria is an artist, photographer and bookmaker from San Antonio, TX. She received a BFA in Photography from Texas State University in 2020. Her interests are family, history, candid photography and storytelling. Her work is published in photobooks & zines, and she is working on her first monograph. rubylongoria.com
Reflection: These images, selected from my body of work Mama, Are You Proud of Me?, represent a few of the psychological anti-portraits I constructed for the project. Concerning my mother’s death when I was seven, these anti-portraits serve to pictorially illustrate the trauma and questions surrounding her death and how it shapes my identity and relationship to my past. By covering the face, I want to stop any intimate connections one might form with the model and instead allow any viewer the ability to place themselves, or others, into the image. Therefore, creating portraits representing my past and letting others recognize and relate to their own.
Trajectory: Reba Jenson is a photographer currently living in San Marcos, Texas. Her photography is driven by an interest in the inherent representation of identity that lies within all images. With a focus on the objects and spaces that fill her daily life, Jenson constructs a world where her identity and personal histories come together via the possibilities of representation the medium of photography presents. She is hoping to obtain an M.F.A. in the future to continue her education in photography. You can find more of her work on her website: rebajenson.com.
Reflection: Distance, a word that didn’t mean much to me a few months ago now consumes most of my thoughts. Distance from our routine and day to day activities. And most importantly the distance from friends and family in order to keep each other and those around us safe. Over the course of the past several months during the few privileged times I have been reunited with my loved ones I’ve begun to allow mundane tasks to fill this void. Mid-day coffee with my roommate, watching my nephew help his dad wash a car for the first time, sitting with my mother as she gets ready for bed. These seemingly insignificant moments, before a global pandemic, have lessened this constant liminal state the world feels to be in. In this body of work, I am grappling with distance and isolating the memories that make me feel as if the fear and worries of tomorrow can be outweighed by the small moments of good in each day.
Trajectory: Julian Shierry is a photographer from Wichita Falls, Texas. Her need to document the world around her is what led her to Texas State University where she received her BFA in Photography. In her work she explores her memories and often recreates moments from her youth. She finds herself infatuated with the idea that society is connected through the centuries old interaction of story-telling. In the future she hopes to continue her education by attending a graduate program where she hopes to study photography or art history. Until then she plans to continue to make work that grapples with what it means to be a society that connects to one another through stories and shared experiences. julianshierry.co
- Image 1: first, turn the light on (2020) My father moved up north for work. Father used to tell me to be the man of the house, but surely we know who holds the fort.
- Image 2: sweet dreams (2019) One without the other is unheard of, unseen and unimaginable.
- Image 3: just another orange (2020) As a sigh of relief exhales, frustration enters. This year has been inspired by chaos to be even worse than any other.
Reflection: Since the beginning of the pandemic, my father was already in fear of losing his job, along with my mother fearing for our health.Fear instilled in our bones- the fear of death, the fear of losing our home. Family is all we got, family is who we are and who we will always be. These photographs were taken with love, compassion and longing for the day I have to cope with their absence. Until then, I will continue to capture the moments we have together, the days I will always want to remember.
Trajectory: Robert Contreras II is an artist and a candidate for the Image and Text MFA program at Ithaca College. Family and collective memory are a huge inspiration for his work and hopes to continue working with his family as long as he continues his practice. He is currently working with his family to make a cooperative pop-up family photo book.