The 33 students, along with Principal Jean Blankenship and consultant Karla Gutierrez visited the Institute of Texan Cultures on March 31 to see UTSA President Ricardo Romo’s “Small Town Texas” photography exhibit and learn how Romo, as a historian, set out on this unique project.
Romo used photography to help document the barrios of East Los Angeles while working on master’s and doctorate degrees in history. As president of The University of Texas at San Antonio, his travels have taken him around the state, with little time to visit the small towns he passed through on the way to his destinations.
Over the past 15 months, Romo has returned to these small towns on weekend trips, to photograph what he called “a fading way of life.” A selection of images, including courthouses, town squares, ranches and small-town citizens, will be on display through May 23 at the institute.
“We want to introduce the importance of documentation through photography and video,” said Hanus. “How fortunate that these children can record these conversations with their grandparents.”
Rhett Rushing, a researcher with the institute, visited the Beeville students March 25. As the director of the institute’s oral history program, he shared his knowledge and experience on how to legally, ethically and effectively record and photograph citizens, capturing their stories for academic pursuit and historic preservation.
“So much wisdom, knowledge and incredible stories are lost from generation to generation,” said Rushing. “It’s great that these students are interested in speaking with parents, grandparents and senior citizens to record stories about life in Beeville 40, 50 or 60 years ago. These stories tell us so much about who we are and how we got here.”
At the institute, educators Carey Eagan and Olga Paolucci led workshops on interpreting photos and how to write effective captions using the “W’s of journalism,” who, what, when, where and why. Combined with Romo’s passion for photography and his perspective on capturing the histories of small towns through pictures and stories, the students are prepared to document Beeville for their own exhibit at the institute, which will be displayed as a part of Family Day, May 15.
The students will be welcomed back to put on “Beeville: My Small Town,” a show of photography, artworks and travel brochures they created as a result of the project. Arturo Almeida, the exhibit curator of Small Town Texas, will evaluate the artworks for merit. Prizes will be awarded during the Family Day celebration.