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Q&A: Photographer Laura Wilson

🕐 3 min read

With subjects ranging from cowboys to football players, 71 photos depicting life in the American West are on display at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

The free exhibit, That Day: Laura Wilson, runs through Feb. 14 and features the work of photographer Laura Wilson. Some of the places she has photographed include South Dakota, Montana and Texas — specifically, rodeo performers in Fort Worth.

The subjects of Wilson’s photographs include: American Indian communities in South Dakota; debutantes in Laredo, Texas; Hutterite communities in Montana; people along the U.S.-Mexico border; and six-man football teams across Texas.

Born in Massachusetts, Wilson grew up in a rural town in the South Shore region. She moved to Texas in 1966 and currently resides in Dallas. She has worked with photographer Richard Avedon on his project photographing the American West, and is the mother of actors Andrew, Owen and Luke Wilson. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times Magazine and she is the author of four books.

Wilson spoke with Fort Worth Business about what having her work at the Amon Carter museum means to her.

You were born in New England. How does a New England girl get interested in the American West?

“I think I always liked it very much because when I was growing up, I grew up in the country. When I was growing up, the West was a place of romance and exploration and frontier. It still seemed that way in the 1950s, the western movies, and cowboys and Indians. We had horses growing up, and we played every afternoon Cowboys and Indians.”

What first got you interested in photography?

“I just was always interested in pictures when I was a child. Growing up, my mother had a drawer full of snapshots — family snapshots. When I was home sick one day from school, very young, first or second grade, I just was lying on the floor trying to recover, and I opened the drawer and put all the pictures out in front of me. I would just think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what my mother looked like before I was born.’ I’m six, and she was only two in this picture. Imagine the miracle of photography. Right instantly, when I saw those pictures in the drawer of our family, I might not have been able to express it at that time, but I did feel like it was like a miracle. The stop, the passage of time.”

What is it about the American West, especially, that brings out that passion of photography for you?

“I’m interested in people. I certainly could find people in Dallas or in cities in the Northeast, but there’s something about the West, the expanse of the West and the tradition and the culture of the West, the 1700s and 1800s and 1900s. It just speaks to me, and it happens that it’s an area of interest to me. I’ve always been interested in the West, and I still am.”

Obviously, in Fort Worth, the saying is that this is ‘Where the West Begins.’ What does it mean to you having your work here in Fort Worth?

“It’s very important to me. It’s huge for me. To be opposite Remingtons and Russells in this gallery is so moving to me. To be at this museum is so moving to me. When I first moved to Texas in 1966, I came over to this museum, and I immediately loved it. I loved the way it sat, its location. I like the Henry Moore, the mesquite tree, the city of Fort Worth beyond. I am so proud to be in this museum.”

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

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