Yesterday afternoon, Rachel Been, Creative Director at Billboard.com, had a…
- Photographer: Julia Robinson
- Specialty: Photojournalism
- Current Location: Austin, TX
- Clients: Dallas Morning News, Texas Highways Magazine, New York Times
- PhotoShelter Website: juliarobinson.photoshelter.com
After being laid off from a staff newspaper job in 2009, photojournalist Julia Robinson did what any photographer would do: she kept shooting. She moved back home to Texas, began applying for other staff jobs, and to soothe her soul began a personal project that brought her more joy than she could have ever anticipated. “Looking back, I just needed something to shoot to feel like a photographer again,” recalls Julia.
While on the highway near Comfort, Texas, Julia caught a flash of bright red in the corner of her eye and pulled a uey. “If anything, I had to make a frame for my inner-Chip-Litherland,” she jokes. What she discovered was a lienzo (Spanish for arena) where the rodeo-style sport “Charreada” takes place, and what she would begin shooting obsessively for the next few months.
Julia is Texas born and raised, and began photographing in highschool. “I photographed my friends hanging out, the music scene in Austin, the usual amateur mix,” she says. Getting a huge crush on her yearbook’s Director of Photography made her join the staff, and while she didn’t get the guy she did get “endless hours of darkroom hilarity, sports and portrait assignments, yellow fingertips, and massive fix inhalation.”
While studying photojournalism in college Julia joined aphotoaday, a community of photojournalists from newspapers all across the country. “It gave me the best primer on what it was like to be a working photographer. I made most of my life-long photo friends through this community and met my first boss years before he hired me. I can’t stress enough how integral this community was to me as a young photographer,” she says. After bouncing around a bit doing internships, Julia landed her first staff job at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.
With a solid portfolio under her belt, Julia went into this personal project like the pro she had come to be. For the entire spring and summer, Julia attended at least one charreada every weekend, photographing over 15 events throughout south and central Texas. For gear she brought her “ancient” Canon 20d or the original 5d, a collection of primes (28, 50, 85), and a 70-200/2.8.
Julia found the Charreada style of rodeo much more fascinating than its more traditional counter part. “Most of the time the only rule of the charreado was ‘don’t die.,” she says. After meeting the local organizer Rafael in Comfort, he invited her to return to events, barnyard dances, and more. Julia gladly accepted, and began meeting other charros on teams throughout south Texas.
Julia stressed the importance of engaging with her subjects: “My high school Spanish came in handy, but for the most part it was about spending the time, being open, and having lots of 5-minute chats about life, one charro at a time. They were incredibly gracious, filling me in on the intricacies of scoring, the history of the sport, and the charros I should pay special attention to.”
“It really helps when you spend the time, invest in the sport and the people, and let them show you what’s important in their community.”
The behind the scenes stories became just as important to Julia as what was happening out on the arena floors: “Charreada isn’t a ground-breaking topic in Texas, but I was happy to go a little bit deeper and visit the family-owned lienzos, witness the brotherhood of the charros, and the hero-worship of the youngsters.”
Julia will be co-hosting our Happy Hour happening Friday, September 20th from 5 pm – 7 pm at Scholz Garten in downtown Austin. Find out more here.