He is our Tom Joad with a Leica: Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, he'll be there. Wherever there's a cop roughing up a guy, he'll be there. Wherever there's injustice or people in need, he'll be there, camera in hand, to get the picture that lets us see for ourselves the conflicts and suffering, as well as the courage that so often accompanies them, in vivid, stirring detail. He is Alan Pogue, and for four decades this Austinite has gone seemingly everywhere – from the Eastside to Iraq, the state Capitol to Cuba, colonias in the Valley to post-Katrina New Orleans, Pakistan, Palestine, Israel, Haiti, Chiapas – recording the lives of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary struggles. Texas death row inmates, migrant farm workers, women in the U.S. labor movement, families surviving war in the Middle East, victims of poverty and natural disaster – all of these and more have had their stories told in his eloquent images, which all but pulse with the subjects' heartbeats. His are not the evidence of the dispassionate observer but the advocate for their humanity. Pogue takes photographs because it matters to him, because he cares about the issues and the people whose lives are being affected. Like his mentor, the great Works Projects Administration photographer and UT professor Russell Lee, Pogue gets close to his subjects. And it makes a difference, both in the emotional content of the images and in our response to them. But it isn't just his work as a "witness for justice" that makes Pogue invaluable as an Austin photographer. Without him, you lose loads of local lore and history. Cutting his photographic teeth on The Rag, the legendary local counterculture newspaper that ran from 1966 to 1977, he had occasion to shoot many of the iconic Austin institutions of the day: Armadillo World Headquarters, Les Amis, the Drag, the early years of Esther's Follies. And as staff photographer for The Texas Observer for more than 35 years, he's captured for posterity the follies at the Capitol and City Hall and the portrait of damn near every politico to walk those hallowed halls. His documentation of the city's political and cultural life over the last 40 years is unmatched, a vast treasure of Austin in the constant struggle to become itself. We can only hope he'll keep his eye on us and be there, camera in hand, to record what we're doing for the next 40 as well.
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