Vintage Texas Impressions

Early Texas photographs from two historical archives featured in an October exhibition. Here, the curator describes the criteria by which prints were selected for the show.

The Houston Center for Photography's October, 1982 show "Early Texas Photographers; Vintage Impressions of Houston and the Southwest, "was an exhibition of photographs from the archives of the Houston Public Library's Metropolitan Research Center and the Harris County Heritage Society. From more than 1.5 million photographs and negatives in the archives of the public library and the 12,000 housed in the Heritage Society, 102 vintage prints were selected, dating from 1870 to 1937. The intent was to exhibit photographs which are not commonly used for straight, historical documentation. Made by both amateur and professional photographers, these images varied in subject and format from family album snapshots and studio portraiture to industrial illustration and social documentary. Many of the photographs reflected inventive planning by artists; others resulted from a simple undemanding layman's approach to photography.

Collected by the archives to preserve the region's visual heritage, these photographs were chosen because they provide a unique perspective of the people and landscape of Texas which exceeds the historical requirement for their preservation. Within the archives the images are integrated into the collections in a purely historical context. However, they reflect an individual and aesthetic use of photography which separates them from the rest of the collections.

The Houston Metropolitan Research Center and the Heritage Society collect and preserve photographs as visual records of history. Early Texas Photographers, however, presented images which offered more than an historical view of a bygone era. The photographs encouraged a personal connection to the past by stimulating an emotional curiosity about these visual impressions that have been left for posterity.

By: Alicia Hathaway

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