July 12, 2017

My Marfa

A Dallas photographer sees the light

While writing and editing the Marfa feature in our current issue of 1530 Main, we realized nearly every artist, gallerist, and free spirit in Dallas has a Marfa story. Here, contributing writer and accomplished photographer Allison V. Smith shares hers.

In 2004, I quit my day job as a staff photographer at The Dallas Morning News to pursue freelance and fine art photography. Day one of being self-employed, drove to Marfa with my future husband, our two dogs, my red Hasselblad, and a bunch of film. I took the opportunity to slow down, wait for the light, and make photography. I’ve continued photographing Marfa and surrounding West Texas towns over the years as an ongoing study of the landscape and light. I love trying to capture the slow desert pace and the mythical light.

It’s the little moments in Marfa that live for. The ones that, if you aren’t paying attention, will just slip past you. Like the time a storm rolled through town, turning the sky yellow for a moment. I had one frame left in my Hasselblad and photographed the extraordinary sky over the Town and Country gas station. Or the time drove by a cluster of native cactus for the 10,000th time but this once there was a silly little cloud hanging over the perfectly lit bunch. I had my camera and made the photo. That cloud still makes me smile.

My Marfa is about living for serendipity and having my camera loaded with lm ready for when it happens.


Allison V. Smith is a freelance photographer for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Texas Monthly. Her fine art photography, represented by Barry Whistler Gallery, is in the permanent collection at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Her West Texas photographs will be showcased in a solo exhibition at the Grace Museum in Abilene this fall.