Like many Texans this summer, Morgan Page and Dustin Rice spent a recent morning packing up the car for a family vacation to the beach. But before reaching Rockport, they initially planned to stop at La Grange, where they would roam and look for photos and stories that spoke to them. Such detours are common for the couple, who spent nearly three years traveling more than 10,000 miles across the state photographing and exploring the history of small, abandoned communities, mostly focusing on pioneer towns. The result of this ambitious project is the captivating “Bones of Texas” a traveling exhibition of photos taken by the couple as well as short stories written by Rice, some real, others simply inspired by the pictures.
The exhibit, which debuted in Wichita Falls this spring, runs through the end of August at River Valley Pioneer Museum, in Canadian. It is moving next to Vernon, where it will take place from September 7 to October 23 at the Red River Valley Museum. Supporting small local institutions was important to the couple. âWhen we go through all of these cities, we’re looking for more regional museums,â Page explains. âWhen we saw the River Valley Pioneer Museum – it’s such a grand building in itself, not to mention what’s inside – it inspired us even more to reach out to the regional museums that serve the cities we actually go to and photograph. â
Page is an associate professor of graphic design at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, while Rice, who received a BA in English from the State of Texas, San Marcos, and is a photographer and amateur artist, is a manager of inventory in a railcar repair. establishment. The couple, who got engaged while working on the project, were heavily inspired by photographers for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Farm Security Administration, including Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston and Russell Lee, who moved to Austin in 1947 and remained there until his death in 1986. âI think the FSA photographers are really important to our project because they were asked to document the effects of poverty on rural communities,â says Page . âI often find that the abandoned cities we visit and photograph were in their last days during the Great Depression. I like to think we are picking up where they left off. Rice adds, âI love walking on something that’s coming to the end of its life cycle but that’s brand new to us. I dig and find the story and the real stories as much as I can. Here, the couple explain the stories behind some of their favorite “Bones of Texas” shots, which they hope to turn into a book.