/17 S AxAm. “144.0r-c:cdr.A. .c./Ae4V 1S c.41 et.44. cito dui.44.0 \(14. It FL-ci 0 7144; FEATURE / Alan Pogue: Through a Lens Darkly PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALAN POGUE Collected on the following pages is a very brief but revealing selection of a lifelong body of work: the documentary photography of Alan Pogue. Alan has been shooting the history of Texas, the America,g and elsewhere for the Observer since the early ’70s. On June 8 at the Peter Yarrow/John Gorka Bene fit Concert for the Observer, he accepted the inaugural “Tyrant’s’ Foe Award ” in honor of twenty-five years of distinguished work on behalf of the magazine, its subjects and readers. Alan was born in what he recalls as the “political backwater” of Corpus Christi, in 1946, and as a youth it seemed to him that the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s came and went without generating much public passion or change in what remained a thoroughly segregated city. Alan was no radical, but a devout Catholic and an altar boy, although he did begin to notice that “some priests drove aging Chevrolet Bel Aires, while others drove new pearly gray Pontiacs or Cadillacs.” Goodness and kindness, he says, were simply family or neighborhood virtues, and neither he nor his friends had much perception or understanding about a wider political world. For Alan, the Vietnam War changed all that. He hadn’t participated in or even seen any protests at Del Mar Junior College or the University of St. Thomas, and when his draft notice arrived it did not fill him with particular dreadonly the promise of escape from what seemed a dull and rigid education. But he came to know “hell,” as he simply describes it, serving as a combat medic with the 198th Infantry in Vietnam. He also found a career. His mother had given him an Instamatic, hoping for an occasional photograph in lieu of the letters he wouldn’t write. “Photography and social understanding grew together. In the camera, beauty and its destruction were recorded with equal care.” His understanding struggled to keep pace; looking back, he says he saw there “nothing that justified the devastation and destruction that was taking place.” He returned to Texas in 1968, and enrolled at the University of Texas, majoring in philosophy. He also joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and became the staff photographer for Austin’s original alternative weekly newspaper, The Rag. In 1972, he 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER began taking photographs for the Observer. Twenty-five years later he is still with us, shooting astonishing and revelatory photographs at short notice, in impossible circumstances, for little financial return. He also provides insightful work for other movement groups, including Veterans for Peace, C.U.R.E. \(the Texas prison reform the United Farm Workers. Alan describes the Observer as “the voice of a community I wish had existed back in Corpus Christi in the summer of 1965.” If we are his voice, he has been our eyes, for a quarter of a century. His final promise: “I look forward to the next twenty-five years of observing for the Texas Observer.” JUNE 20, 1997
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