Equal before the Lens: Jno. Trlica's Photographs of Granger, Texas

Equal before the Lens: Jno. Trlica's Photographs of Granger, Texas

by Barbara McCandless
     
 


People have always documented the turning points in their lives: births, christenings, first communions, graduations, weddings, deaths. For much of the twentieth century, this documentation frequently included a trip to the local professional photographer for a formal portrait. Barbara McCandless records here the events in the lives of the residents of Granger… See more details below

Overview


People have always documented the turning points in their lives: births, christenings, first communions, graduations, weddings, deaths. For much of the twentieth century, this documentation frequently included a trip to the local professional photographer for a formal portrait. Barbara McCandless records here the events in the lives of the residents of Granger, Texas, through the work of Jno. P. Trlica, the community’s sole full-time photographer from 1924 to 1955.

Granger, a small rural community in the rich blacklands of the state’s central region, is both typical of small Texas towns and unique in its specific story. The transition from a railroad-based to an automobile-based economy and the problems experienced by agricultural communities relying upon the sole crop of “King Cotton” are two chapters told poignantly in the story of Granger. In addition, all the major cultural groups of Texas—Southern Anglos, blacks, Hispanics, and European-immigrant communities—existed in close proximity in the town and experienced all the intercultural tensions that peaked in the 1920s.

Jno. P. Trlica was a first-generation Czech Texan; as part of a marginal subgroup himself, he had access to all the subgroups of Granger. Trlica was especially devoted to his own Czech culture and intentionally documented its groups and social events, as well as the business and social activities of the town of Granger, but his portrait business was open to all segments of society. While other businesses in Granger refused to serve blacks and Hispanics, the Jno. P. Trlica Studio may have been one of the few places in the town where all cultures crossed paths. His portraits today serve as a social history not just of the privileged classes, but of all the people of Granger and the surrounding countryside. They also serve as a testament to a time in photography’s past when the posed studio portrait was both an art form and a significant part of life in small-town America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A first-generation Czech Texan, photographer Trlica made his portrait studio in Granger, Tex., an egalitarian meeting place for all races, from 1924 through the mid-1950s. His carefully posed yet artistic pictures celebrate turning points in the lives of blacks, Mexican Americans, Southern Anglos and the European immigrant community but scarcely hint at the intercultural tensions among these groups, as McCandless notes in her rewarding introductory essay. Trlica's orderly, static documentary photographs of cotton field workers, store windows, unpaved residential streets and festivals bear hardly a trace of Granger's racist climate, white Americans' fear and distrust of other ethnic groups or the severe economic dislocation resulting from overreliance on ``King Cotton.'' All of these issues are sensitively discussed by McCandless, a curator at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Tex. (June)
Library Journal
This album of historical photographs from a small Texas town captures for all time the various ethnic groups and immigrants who lived there from 1925 to 1945. From the late 1800s, almost every town in America supported at least one commercial photographer who inadvertently documented its history through formal portraits and special assignments around the community. Over the course of his career, Trlica, a Czech immigrant, built a similar visual archive of the social life of his adopted home of Granger, Texas. McCandless has done a very good job of selecting, arranging, and interpreting the photographs, all of which are reproduced in duotone. The result is a lovely and intriguing book. Equal Before the Lens will be of obvious interest and value in regional collections. However, because it deals with an overlooked area in American studies, it also deserves a place in social history and documentary photography collections. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Raymond Bial, Parkland Coll. Lib., Champaign, Ill.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780890964866
Publisher:
Texas A&M University Press
Publication date:
07/01/1992
Series:
Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Texas Photography Series, #3
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
11.43(w) x 8.97(h) x 0.99(d)

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