(This article was originally published in 2012)
This is where it started. Not the North African country half a world away, but rather the sleepy little town just outside of Wharton on the Colorado River.
I saw a picture of the old post office the day before, and decided to go take a look thinking that it would be a good subject to start out with on my first real photography outing in years. When I got there I noticed that it was in bad shape, and it really wasn't much to look at. As I turned to my left, I saw something that I hadn’t even noticed on the drive in; a much more interesting old barn, and then another, and then a beautiful old homestead sparkling in the late evening sun. I crossed the road to get a closer look, and was met by the "curator" of the property, who I am fairly sure is named Mary. She enlightened me a little about the history of the place; that it was one of the first settlements in Texas and part of the “Old 300” families given original land grants from the Mexican government. The structures dated from 1825-1840, the house and smaller barn being the oldest if memory serves. The larger barn, built around 1840, was impressive. After my history lesson she told me that I could come back the next morning and take some photos on the property, and so I returned at 630AM that Saturday morning to begin my photo essay of this gem that I had discovered.
I spent the better part of the morning walking around the two old barns, in and out, taking shot after shot with my old film camera. By 8 o’clock I was surveying an old slave quarters when I met up with the curator once again. She asked me if the guys had shown me the old hunting cabin yet. I answered 'no', but I guess the look on my face indicated that I would love to see it so she instructed me to go down to the old saloon where Mr. Northington was setting up for the 4th of July barbecue and ask him to take me down there. I was thrilled at the opportunity and took off down the hill. When I got there, I saw several people who seemed to be in a hurry to get things going, moving grills and coolers around, managing the fires, and so on. I found George, and told him what she had said. He didn't hesitate for a second and yelled inside to his wife, 'honey, can you bring out the key to the south gate?' He went on to explain to me that he really didn't have time to show me as he was setting up for the day’s events, and as his wife appeared and handed him the key, he in turn handed it to me with the following request: 'Please make sure to lock the gate behind you after you go in, I have about 40 head of cattle in there and I'd like them to stay inside the fence.' At first I thought that he was kidding me, but sure enough he dropped the key into my hand and then gave me directions to the gate. I was sure that no one had ever entrusted me with so much based on so little personal knowledge of me in my life. Needless to say, I took great care in preventing any of the forty or so cattle from bounding through the open gate.
A couple of hours and three rolls of film later, I had some great shots, and memories of roaming around on some private riverfront property in Wharton County, a chance that I knew even then was extraordinary. It might not be much to some people, but for me it was a day of fun, carefree existence and experience building my portfolio. Before that day most of my photographic work had been sports related, more specifically, auto racing. I never regretted that body of work, but now I realized that it was time to expand my field of study with photography. Thus began my more serious years as a landscape photographer.