More than 200 images by Houston’s Bob Bailey Studios, collected in Houston on the Move: A Photographic History (excerpted here), cover its growth from a sleepy town to an oil-and-space industry colossus — a place always imagining its future. A commercial photographer often hired by Houston businesses and industries, Bailey photographed the city from a startlingly white point of view; few of his images reflect the town’s diversity, an absence that seems, in and of itself, a 20th century relic.
But the studio’s work, archived at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, spans such a vast period of time — from the 1930s to 1991 — that the images create a pictorial history of Houston as it transformed over and over again. Captured in the book are multiple iterations of Houston — as an infant city with a handful of skyscrapers, in ruins after the 1947 Texas City Disaster, resplendent with Madison Avenue-like storefront displays, gritty and streamlined in the ’80s. Until this book, its introduction points out, many Houstonians “thought that their memories were the only record left of demolished buildings and city landmarks.”