A Texas Journey: The Centennial Photographs of Polly Smith

Evelyn Barker

The beginning of the 20th century is slightly familiar but ultimately foreign, which is apparent in this collection of photographs by Polly Smith. Smith, 27 at the time, was hired in 1935 to photograph the Lone Star State in preparation for the centennial celebration of Texas’ independence from Mexico. For eight months, she traveled the state with a bulky camera, developing pictures in a makeshift darkroom in her truck. The pictures show a fantasized view of Texas—oil, cattle and Spanish missions—but she also captured the skyscrapers, parks and people that eluded the country’s consciousness. Some shots are easily passed over, but many capture a time long lost. The silhouetted shots of “Workmen at an Oil Derrick” are a haunting reminder of billions of lives we’ll never know.