Name any Austin landmark or tourist attraction, I’ve probably been there.
The Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue, bats over Lady Bird Lake, bluebonnets in Spring, Mt Bonnell, Lake Travis, the Texas Capitol, Redbud Isle, Hamilton Pool, Bremond Block, Devil’s Cove, The Broken Spoke, The Continental Club, Zilker Park, St. Mary’s Cathedral, The Drag, Austin Bike Zoo: I’ve photographed them all and many more.
Over a 1.5 year period, I spent part of every weekend taking thousands of photographs of more than 100 locations around Austin for my photo book entitled, “Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait.”
During that time, not only did I experience the Austin that I was used to seeing in my everyday life – I also discovered other sides of Austin as I stepped outside of my comfort zone and endeavored to capture a more complete picture of the city in order to produce a book that all Austinites can relate to.
While working on this project, I noticed that Austin today is a city of beautiful contrasts.
Here in one metropolis you can find modern steel and glass high rises down the road from a Cathedral of Junk, world-renown fine dining restaurants next to humble but equally revered food trailers, and beautiful street murals in the same neighborhood as the museum that houses the world’s first photograph and a Gutenberg Bible.
Austin is a place where beautiful greenbelts run beneath futuristic condos and elevated highways, where the word ‘weird’ is used as a positive descriptor and where shorts and sandals are normal attire even at the most posh venues. Austin is a big city that has defied the odds by retaining a small town charm and has somehow avoided many big city problems. At the same time, even though not a mega city like New York or LA, Austin is a place where you find people in tune with the latest ideas – where artistic and creative people flock to and where entrepreneurs and business people thrive.
I haven’t always been a huge fan of Austin – I moved here from Atlanta, Georgia in 2002 to work for Dell, knowing very little about Austin or Texas.
My first impressions of Austin were that it’s an exciting city where people are genuinely happy to live. I also noticed that Austin is a place where people respect each other and nature, take time to smell the roses, and enjoy a very high standard of living. I was taken aback by the amount of pride people had for their home – people here love Austin and want to tell everyone about the city. Coming from Atlanta too, the negatives of heat and traffic were non issues because it’s so much worse back there ☺
I marveled at Austin’s downtown, where people congregate in the historic district during all hours of the day. I was pleasantly surprised that unlike so many other cities, you could walk downtown at 3AM and not only feel perfectly safe, but you could get a decent meal on the street at the same time.
Sure Austin lacks some of the world class museums and national sports teams of other cities. True it doesn’t have world famous landmarks like Big Ben in London, Christ the Redeemer Rio, or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I too love visiting places like these – I’ve been to dozens of big cities all over the world, photographing and eating my way through their busy streets – but after a while it’s too much.
After a couple of weeks travelling I long for the relaxing, laid back, and friendly atmosphere without pretense that Austin provides. I’ve come to appreciate too that Austin has most of the benefits (including food and fun things to do) of a huge city anyways, without the hassle of long commutes, high prices, and long lines.
As I have lived here longer and become more integrated into Austin’s various communities – I’ve learned how friendly Austinites are and how easy it is to meet people here. I’ve met so many genuinely nice people through vibrant Austin photo, foodie and tech communities that have taken root in Austin.
To make an increasingly long story short, in my 9 years here I’ve gone from completely clueless about Austin to a full convert to the “I love Austin” camp and I’m now a huge supporter of the city.
In closing, Austin is an amazing city that has an amazing energy to it. You can tell what a good thing we have going here by the praise that out of towners shower upon the city when they come visit. I love this city as much as anyone and it’s my hope that the 175 photos in my recently published Austin photography book (which I consider my ode to the city) do the city justice while showing the world many of the best things about Austin.
More from Peter’s photo shoot can be found here.
Ten Reasons Why I Love Austin:
10. Austin is the nexus of a small world. I’m not sure why but everyone seems to have a story of crazy serendipitous meeting. Ironically, I have not run into Elvis. Yet.
9. Rock stars are freaking everywhere in this town. Not just in the obvious rakish Keith Richards way, but under cover too. I know a CEO of a B2B marketing firm that can melt your face off with a guitar.
8. A homeless cross dresser with great legs named Leslie can run for mayor. I voted for him. Twice.
7. We love start-ups, whether they are bands, tech companies, or food trailers- we can’t get enough. Throw a rock anywhere downtown and you’ll hit a start-up CEO who plays weekend gigs with his band, waiting in line for coffee at a food trailer.
6. People here can argue about BBQ with a passion usually reserved for politics elsewhere. I saw two hipster girls arguing about brisket once and my heart almost exploded.
5. Twice a year we become the center of the world for music-obsessed folks who do not currently reside in Austin. I would be lying if I said we don’t have a smug sense of self-satisfaction about it.
4. People here love the outdoors. We love to get outside even in the oppressive heat of summer to play, exercise, meet friends, eat, listen to music, and drink. Mostly just drink, though.
3. Austin is the home of the rebirth of roller derby. We can’t support a professional sport in a town of a million but we have 2 roller derby leagues. Suck it New York.
2. Speaking of towns that can suck it… Hey San Francisco, Austin is also the social media capital of the world. You may claim the tech crown, but the social brainpower here is staggering. For one second Aaron Stout, Natanya Anderson, Peter Kim, Kate Niederhoffer, Susan Scrupski worked at the same company. The world nearly imploded under the sheer magnitude of all the knowledge amassed in one place.
1. This town made up our own holiday. Seriously, who does that? Austinites do, just for a reason to eat pot brownies and cake in a public park. We are that weird and I love it.
You can find Sam on Twitter at @sameder.
More from Sam’s photo shoot can be found here.
The most concise, creative and easy answer to give about living in ATX for me: Austin provides me a place: to explore my locavore philosophy, follow my passions, create my artistic and aesthetic dreams and most importantly; build and maintain a relationship with my brother.
The more long-winded and exploratory answer.
I was born in Texas and had all the wonderful Texan characteristics and traits bred into me. These traveled with me everywhere I have been. After traveling, working and living in 9 other countries, the lower 48 states, tackling two languages and seeking out stories from everyone I met, I have returned. While I was living and working abroad and stateside, everyone always commented on the same three traits: my passion, my easy-going spirit, and my ability to say exactly what was needed to say.
I would say that those three traits encompass Austin and its residents. Just one of the many appealing factors about this place.
Flashback to September 2010: I just returned to San Francisco (where I had been living for 4 years) from Panama (where I had been for 6 months, working)
Phone: Charles (my brother): “So, what are you going to do now?”
Me: “Find a place that I can produce media, follow my passions, and be productive.”
Charles: “I support that. We are both adults now, why don’t you move to Austin and let’s live in the same city for the first time and develop a relationship? You can live with me for 30 days, then, you have to get out of my house!”
Me: “Touching. I’ll be there in two weeks.”
Seven months into living in Austin and I have found/created the four required things I wanted.
Austin provides a wonderful locavore scene. Urban farms abound here with Springdale Farm, Rain Lily, Boggy Creek and Tecolote are some of my favorites. The Saturday and Wednesday farmers’ markets are great social and culinary adventures. Several restaurants practice local sourcing such as East Side Showroom, Odd Duck, East Side Cafe, La Condesa, and more are practicing this everyday.
Austin’s personality and flow allow people to get their work done, with time for friends, family and personal achievements. Food, photography, video, being outdoors doing any activity that ends in ‘ing’ that I can do with a camera in my hand, are all passions of mine. One can easily do this in Austin. There is a receptive crowd to art, expression, story-telling/sharing. ATX’s convenient location to a river, several lakes and the Hill Country allow one to escape a bit and explore the outdoors.
Not only am I creating my artistic dreams, but I am partnering up in a new business, Applebox Imaging. We are exploring the artistic collaborative efforts of photographers, video artists, illustrators and more. We hope to explore our passions and share them with you.
Finally, and most importantly, the relationship with my brother has never been better. We cook, kayak, explore and socialize together. It’s not a relationship that you have to have, it’s one that you want to have.
That is what Austin is about to me and why I live here: One doesn’t NEED it, you WANT it because of all its appealing nature.
More from David’s photo shoot can be found here.