chapter  4
24 Pages

Africana Aesthetics: Creating a Critical Black Narrative from Photographs in South Texas

WithAlberto Rodriguez

Robert Runyon was born on a farm in Kentucky on July 28, 1881. (YHQWKRXJKKHUHFHLYHGDOLPLWHGHGXFDWLRQLWGLGQRWNHHSKLPIURP becoming a successful businessperson. He became one of the most successful photo postcard distributors in South Texas. Runyon started taking photographs in 1907 in his home state of Kentucky. Runyon moved to %URZQVYLOOHLQDIWHUWKHGHDWKRIKLV¿UVWZLIH:KLOHZRUNLQJIRU the Gulf Coast News and Hotel Company in Brownsville he perfected his trade in photography. In his spare time, Runyon took photographs of local events and natural habitats of South Texas. What he originally called DKREE\VRRQWXUQHGLQWRDSUR¿WDEOHEXVLQHVV1

In 1910, Mexico was encompassed in a bloody civil war that affected the South Texas border. As the revolution manifested itself, it was Runyon who had his photographs of the violence turned into postcards that he sold throughout the United States. Although photographs portraying the

FRQÀLFWDQGFKDQJHRQWKHERUGHUEURXJKWKLPIDPHKHDOVRWRRNSKRWRgraphs for land developments that had displaced Mexican landowners of South Texas in the early 1900s. With the end of the Mexican Revolution, Runyon sought a new avenue for income. He opened a portrait studio on 1140 Saint Charles Street in Brownsville. His photographs offer powerful views of South Texas society and culture. His collection of over 8,000 photographs was eventually donated by his children to the University of Texas at Austin.