The Man Who Would Be Mayor
I recently had occasion to photograph newly elected Austin Mayor Kirk Watson. This was about a week before the coronavirus took him down for a brief period, and shortly before the second major freeze calamity in Austin in two years rolled through town. To say he stepped into a blizzard is true both literally and metaphorically.
Why would you choose to serve in public office at this point? I get it - someone has to - but what a thankless task.
At this point, being in public office means taking shit from all sides, all day, every day. Thank you social media. I always say that the great promise of the internet was that everyone would get a voice; the great tragedy of the internet is that the promise was realized.
All of which is to say, I have a measure of sympathy for Mayor Watson, and others of his ilk, even if they willingly signed-up for it. (My sympathy does not extend to ALL career politicians. Regardless of their party affiliations, the likes of Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz are self-evidently wretched and immoral human beings guided entirely by self-interest. They're welcome to all the dirt that gets hurled their way)
Anyway, the reason I mention this is because Mayor Watson was generous and kind throughout our photo session. He was prepared to be playful, put his trust in me that I wouldn’t make him look ridiculous while having him mug for the camera. He answered questions I put to him about the tasks now facing him and was fully present and engaged throughout (even if, as the outtake below alludes to, he’s a man with a lot of pressure and responsibility and not a lot of time).
It’s part of a politician’s job to put people at ease, gain their trust, but I was grateful that we were able to share moments that didn’t feel canned or false, that we had a sincere interaction.
A note about the images: they were shot for Austin Monthly. I appreciate the eye of Creative Director Sara Eugenio in selecting the image of Mayor Watson looking off to the side as the main image. It may not have been the most obvious image I submitted, but I like it because of that.
The color image was required as a secondary, horizontal image. You work with what you have in these crowded, non-descript conference rooms, and I feel our thirty minutes with the Mayor were wisely spent.