Where My Photography Began

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Karl Komastu and I standing in front of the Mallet Ranch Headquarters house.


In going through photos for a recent project, I came across this image. I sighed and smiled. It brought back tons of memories of this place I grew to love.

The one memory I always tend to forget – this place was the beginning of my photography. It was here I learned how to photograph historical structures. Capturing the details of angles, windows, foundations, chimneys’, doorknobs, ceilings, doors, roofs – the list could go on. The purpose of taking all these photos was to document the main headquarters house, bunkhouse, foreman’s house, garage, and barn completely for possible relocation or preservation in situ.

It was here I got lost in time with my friend, Ginny, as we walked the pastures photographing flowers, grasses, and cacti. I mean hours would pass and we’d go “Oh, hell!” Not knowing that 2 o’clock soon became 7 o’clock. Time behind the camera, photographing the landscape, is like computer time … 2:00 p.m. turns to 7:00 p.m.

During this lost time documenting the native unplowed pastures it was here we made discoveries.  It was here we captured a baby porcupine up in a 100-year old cottonwood tree. It was here we chased a collared lizard. It was here we followed the tracks of a large cat that turned out to probably be a mountain lion – at least we assumed it was when we heard the deep growls and our hearts stopped. It was here we tried rescuing a red-tailed hawk that had a broken wing. It was here at the Cottonwood Tank where Ginny and I were serenaded by several coyotes one evening. It was here we braved a severe snow and ice storm to take photographs.

On this day when this image was captured the Llano Estacado region had over 5 inches of rain. Architect, Karl Komastu had flown in from Fort Worth to see the site. He rented a Jeep and bravely drove down the muddy roads to get to the ranch. We were slipping and sliding all over the place, but we never left the road. It remained drizzly all that day.

Yes – if it were not for this place I would not be a photographer today. I’m thankful for these experiences and this growth period. It saddens me that the owners of this historic ranch decided to let this unique piece of history continue to decay with every dust storm, windstorm, ice storm and snowstorm, and most recently vandalism.

You cannot replace history. It can only be preserved through efforts of caring individuals. Sometimes only photographs will remain of places you had come to love. Sometimes the photographer’s insight will be all that stands for some of these historical places and this is what I am most proud to do for future generations.

Note: The Mallet Ranch Headquarters Court is located in southwest Hockley County, Texas. It was placed on the 2008 Most Endangered Places by Preservation Texas.


Photograph – © David Murrah