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How It All Started

A Texan Life isn’t just a company that was started a few years ago, and moved to the bayou. It’s about a boy who idolized his father, and wanted to do whatever his dad was doing. And when my father got a camera, and started teaching himself photography, I was all over that. To the point that I would get my grubby little hands on his camera whenever I could. He eventually recognized, that this was something I actually enjoyed doing, and I might stay out of trouble if I could keep doing it. So for Christmas as a young teen, he and mom got me my own Ricoh 35mm body that could use his lenses.

Dad and I on his Honda 754

First Photography Job

Mom and Dad eventually divorced, and mom would move to St. Louis for a job taking me with her. I made new friends while there, running around and raising hell when I wasn’t working like any other 19 year old. I still had my camera, and would pull it out to shoot whenever I could afford film and processing. The father of one of my new friends owned a photography studio, and my friend showed some of my pics to his father. His father liked the shots enough that he hired me on the spot to do youth sports shots. So began my first iteration as a professional photographer.

Mom with Blackie taken with Dad's Pentax K1000
Mom circa late 1970s with our cat Blackie

Putting Down My Camera And Picking Up A Rifle

About A Texan Life
CQ duty during training. One of the rare times I was in front of the camera. My place is behind the camera.

Shortly after starting a career in photography, Iraq invaded Kuwait. For most people this probably wasn’t even a blip in their life, for me it was a little more. My great grandfather had served in WW1, my grandfather had served in the Pacific in WW2, and two uncles had served during Vietnam. In other words, whether it was or not, I felt it was a familial duty to serve. So off to Ft. McClellan I went to become a MP (Military Police). I wasn’t about to take my good camera and lenses, so as soon as I got to Ft. Mac I got a point and shoot Vivitar 35mm. So I put down the camera, forgot about my dream, and picked up the rifle.

Delta795 3rd
My OSUT Platoon. I’m top center.

30 Years Lost

While in the service after an incident, I started having nightmares, anxiety attacks, explosive, unreasonable anger, and I was constantly hyper aware. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I didn’t know why overnight, I had changed. Suicide was often in my thoughts. I was dissatisfied with no longer being in the Army, I was dissatisfied with how my life was going, I was adrift. Failed marriages, drugs, alcohol, anything self destructive was a part of my life. Growing up as a part of Gen X, I didn’t talk about my feelings, I didn’t allow fear to show, I just kept it all in, while year after year, I got worse and worse. Until one day I broke down while talking to another vet. He told me it sounded like I had what he had…PTSD, He also told me to get in to the VA and talk to a psychiatrist and get help.

Heather on my lap cropped crop
My service dog Heather and I, back when I was still able to hold a regular job.

Picking Up The Camera Again

Soon after I went to the VA, and began working on what was wrong. I will have PTSD the rest of my life, but thanks to the Doctor’s and Nurses there, The suicidal thoughts are less frequent, and the hypervigilance and nightmares are usually more manageable. Thanks to Angie, my girlfriend, and a true Coonass from Down Da Bayou the anger is less explosive, and a little rarer. One of the things the Doctor did was ask me was there anything I enjoyed doing? I remembered discussing photography with my dad, my “uncle” Charlie, and a neighbor who was a photographer, I remembered how all the world, but the slice I focused on through the viewfinder disappeared. I remembered the pride, and enjoyment from pictures I had taken that told a story, spoke to me in some way. I remembered the camera. Now 30+ years later, that Ricoh that my parents had given had disappeared somewhere, and heck you couldn’t hardly buy film anymore anyways. So I was kind of stuck.

Cleburne, Texas riverwalk. This picture is one of the first after I picked up the camera again, yet it still speaks to me.

Mom To The Rescue Again

Being on service connected disability from the VA means that there is no extra money, and cameras are expensive, so I didn’t know how I was going to pick up the camera again. Well, Mom, the one person I’ve relied on my entire life, the one person that always stood by me, rescued me one more time. She bought me a Nikon D780 in the hope, that it would help me live again. And it did. It helped me start A Texan Life, LLC. It helped me find a life again. It helped me find joy again, and when my demons come out to play, it helps me put them back in their cages where they belong, so that I can live another day. When I can’t find beauty, I look through the viewfinder, and suddenly the whole world is beautiful again.

Not Just A Picture

When I take a picture it’s not just an image. It’s a piece of a person, it’s the beauty in how a predator moves, it’s a fraction of a second in history that will never happen again. And it should be recorded in the reverence that it deserves. That’s what I want to do with every single photograph that I take. I want a mother to have a piece of history of her son doing his favorite things in his senior year, I want a Grandmother showing her grandkids just how beautiful and in love grandma and grandpa were on their wedding day. I want an old Cajun remembering his shrimp boat with pride and a clarity that his mind can never have. When those folks have that with pictures I have taken, then I will have left a good mark on this world. It may not be the service I had planned on as a kid, but it will still be serving my community. Whether it my be my home community of Texas, or my new community of the bayous of Louisiana.

Zack doing what he loves for his senior picture shoot.

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