It was 2018 when I made the pitch to photographer O. Rufus Lovett as we sipped beers at the Lone Star Ice House. With our hometown of Longview approaching its sesquicentennial in 2020, I said, let’s embark on a project to document our fellow Longviewites, from all walks of life. I’ll interview them, and you take the pictures.
Rufus—a nationally acclaimed photographer whom I’ve collaborated with multiple times during my 40 years as a journalist—readily agreed, and we were off and running on a project we titled @longviewtx150. We solicited names of possible subjects from the newspaper, Facebook, and suggestions from friends. Our goal was to provide a snapshot of Longview’s diverse population. We would feature some of the people whose names are often in the news. We would also do our best to include people who work hard and rarely receive recognition.
Our project was not, by any means, the “150 Most Influential People in Longview,” or the most interesting, or the most anything. It was simply our best effort to display the diversity of our community, to tell their stories through words and environmental portraits.
We were nearly finished when the pandemic struck, and everything closed down. Most of Longview’s sesquicentennial events were postponed or cancelled—including our July 2020 exhibition at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts. But we pushed the project forward, working remotely and at safe distances — phone call and emails for me; Rufus photographing from 15 feet away, wearing a mask.
Now, 2 1/2 years later, we’re finally ready for the debut of the project, including an exhibit and the publication of an accompany 136-page coffee-table book called @longviewtx150.
Decades ago, my father created the commemorative plate for Longview’s 1970 centennial, which was the inspiration for our sesquicentennial project. Back then, he enlisted me to help with printing bumper stickers for the occasion. They said, “Lucky Me, I Live in Longview,” with a shamrock included. The same sentiment thrives today, 50 years later. We are, indeed, lucky to live here.
@longviewtx150 Book and Exhibition
The portraits and profiles of @longviewtx150 will debut April 16 at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts, along with the publication of the book of the same name. VeraBank paid for the book’s publication, allowing all proceeds from the book’s sales to be donated to the Women’s Center of East Texas. The LMFA exhibit runs until July 3. Books can be purchased online at longviewtx150.com.