Robert Langham, a local photographer, believes that magic can be captured and frozen in time through the lens of a camera. He set about doing just that with his new exhibit, Brickstreet Anthology at the Tyler Museum of Art.
The name owes itself to Tyler’s miles of brick streets in the Azalea District and downtown. The collection is comprised of striking black and white photos that brim with the culture of Tyler’s residents, both lifelong and recent.
“They had a photojournalism course [at Tyler Junior College] and I’d always been a little curious about photography,” Langham said, recalling how he started in photography.
Originally conceived as an idea called “100 Tylerites,” (one of many titles which were considered) the idea was that Langham would shoot pictures of 100 people in Tyler in their normal environments as a project he specifically wanted to do for the museum.
“I really do try to make them as plain and classic, you know, and as easy to read as possible. I mean I’m looking right at people’s faces. I’m looking at the person. I wasn’t just skimming by. I mean I was trying to kind of be there with the person, you know you just never know what you’re going to learn,” Langham said describing his process capturing each subject.
The pictures feature “Tylerites” from all walks of life. Some are raw and intimate, like the photo of librarian Mary Jane McNamara seated in her quaint and tidy house with a stack of books in her lap. Others are vibrant and ethereal such as a capture of the 2016 Texas Rose Festival Queen Mallory Curtis with a crown on her head, a seaside painting as the backdrop, and rose petals fluttering over her face. The background of each piece was something Langham took into careful consideration, noting that if it wasn’t complimenting his subject then it was detracting from it.
Langham has worked with the Tyler Museum of Art in various ways, and as such has a close relationship with the staff.
He is also an adjunct professor teaching photography at TJC. As a locally well-known photographer, it didn’t take long for some fans to catch wind of Langham’s newest project.
“I mean it’s a dangerous thing to have this list, cause almost instantly people say, ‘Well I heard what you were working on, like the 100 best Tylerites,’” said Langham. “Well, it’s not really the 100 best Tylerites. It’s just 100 Tylerites.”
Curating and organizing the exhibit was a calculated process all it’s own. Caleb Bell, one of the curators, and Josh Ware, the registrar and collections manager for the Tyler Museum of Art, have both had the opportunity to collaborate with Langham on several occasions. They each labored closely with him in bringing this display to fruition.
“There are 50 photographs in the show and I picked out all 50. There were about 80, 85 that he submitted and so due to size, unfortunately, we just couldn’t show them all,” said Bell. “I helped kind of place them, organize them, sequence them how you would kind of experience the exhibition.”
There are plans to rotate the pictures on display in the exhibit, that way all of the photos have the chance to be seen. Ware handled the physical aspects of setting up the show.
“Once they were all framed and in here it was just a matter of spacing out how they needed to go up on the walls and then just the math work and physical work of putting them up,” said Ware.
Langham has also recently been working with the museum in photographing its collections for digitization so that they will be viewable in web form. The respect for Langham and his library of work is palpable among the museum staff.
“It was very cool to get an inside perspective on how he went about taking these photos, because he would, in some of the photo sessions for digitizing the [museum’s] collection, he would talk about where he was and arranging photo shoots with certain people and who he wanted to shoot next and kind of where he was with it,” Ware said. “It was just neat just to see the ideas form and then come to fruition.”
The exhibit will be displayed until May 14, 2017. For more information, visit
http://www.tylermuseum.org or simply walk into the Tyler Museum of Art located on the Tyler Junior College campus. The museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. They are closed Mondays and most major holidays. Admission to this particular exhibit is free, but reservations and tours are available at varying costs.