Film Photography in H-Town
There was a span of time in my life when I lived in the great city of Houston, TX. Being from Michigan made Texas—Houston in particular—like another planet. Planet Houston was hot, beautifully diverse and home to some of the best food that has ever grazed my taste buds. Driving on the six-lane freeways there was like being in a video game, but you get used to it, and the benefits far outweighed the cons.
For photography, Houston was a gold mine, especially coming from rural Michigan where a bustling city scene—outside of Detroit and Grand Rapids—was rare. There were interesting events constantly and there was also an energy about the city that was infectious. Houston is home to the Houston Center for Photography which is photo mecca, so needless to say, photo inspiration was never far.
The camera of choice, when I could afford to process film, was the Canon TX I purchased in Prague, Czech Republic. The fact that it was film and the fact that each frame had a price tag on it, forced me to slow my pace and make the most of my shots. If you’ve never tried, slowing down your pace and making thoughtful, considered images can be an excellent exercise and practice.
Downtown Houston Street Photography
Downtown was where I’d spend most of my time exploring. I parked as far away from town as possible so my parking fee was as low as possible. It might’ve been around $1.50; I was walking a long way. The downtown scene was filled with people, not in the sense that New York City or Chicago would be, but it was bustling. Skyscrapers hid the light sometimes and loomed overhead as skyscrapers do.
Surprising to me though, is that, at least at that time, downtown Houston wasn’t very photographer friendly. On numerous occasions I saw picture-making tourists being told no and redirected, even though a sidewalk is public property and photography there isn’t illegal. Knowing the rules and not being a fan of authority anyway, I wasn’t so easily swayed by “security” guards. I was told on more than one instance that photography wasn’t allowed, to which I replied,”It is,” and kept about my art craft.
Downtown was interesting but it wasn’t the only place I’d visit: parades, junk yards, side streets, they were all fair game and new to me. There was a section of town along Airline Drive and I couldn’t get enough of it. The people, the vibe, the color, the energy—it was a place I was constantly drawn to.
Always Carrying a Camera
A camera is never far from me and this was true in Houston also. One day, I pulled up to an apartment complex and saw a boy, with his friends, playing in a small tree. The boy was relaxing in a branch, half asleep. I checked my exposure using my handheld meter, and made some frames of him. It was so natural. We acknowledged each other and he was simply daydreaming. To this day it remains one of my favorite sequences of pictures I’ve ever taken simply because of how authentic and beautiful the moment was.
Outside of that, I was always walking with my camera, searching and being observant of the wonderful Lonestar light. What I miss the most about Houston is the lively culture and the color. Houston—America’s fourth largest city at almost 2.4 million people—is a special place. I can’t recommend going there enough, just make sure to bring a camera.