Photographers explore variety of life in Texas

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Penny De Los Santos has moved in her photography from documenting diverse aspects of South Texas, from prison and gang lifestyles to family life depicted in “Quinceaneras.” “I realized photography had a voice and you could actually say something,” De Los Santos said. “I wanted to define and understand what it meant to be a Hispanic Latino. For me, it was about finding my identity.” She served on a panel of four photographers Thursday exploring the diverse perspectives of young people growing up in Texas. “Growing Up In Texas” is the first of a series of panel discussions hosted by the Plan II Honors program and the Austin Center for Photography. “All the photographers are very accomplished and have had their photos in major newspapers and magazines,” said Austin photographer Matthew Valentine. “There are anthropological and historical as well as journalistic values in this photography, and it will appeal to a wide variety of students.” The event showcased the photography of Susan Gaetz Duarte, Jeff Wilson, Penny De Los Santos and Rufus Lovett. Duarte presented her depiction of Beachy Amish Mennonites in Lott, a group that separates themselves culturally from society. In her photography, she documents the upbringing of young people in these communities, from how they gain an education to their style of dress — all of which are governed by a sense of modesty and simplicity. She said her purpose of photographing this group was to learn about how her ancestors lived. In his book, “Home Field,” Wilson portrays the importance of high school football by photographing diverse stadiums throughout Texas. “I wanted to use repetition to describe how different these stadiums are — to catalogue and preserve them,” Wilson said. “I also like to point out how they can be [a] really important part of their childhood and memory to the people who occupy them.” The final presentation showcased the Weeping Mary community, a small African-American neighborhood in Cherokee County. Rufus Lovett captured their everyday lives in his Alfred Eisenstaedt Award-winning book titled “Weeping Mary.” The photographers each brought a different perspective into the descriptions of their projects, which left room for students to interpret the images in different ways. “They all had their own unique approach to the oddity that is Texas,” said Spencer Selvidge, a photojournalism graduate student. “Texas isn’t what people should consider normal — their photography represented little slices of life.”