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.