Photographers share insight in Friday talk


Austin McKinney

Photographer Louie Palu speaks at the Joynes Reading Room on Friday evening. Along with Larry Towell and Sarah Wilson, Palu spoke about the essence of portraiture, part of the Joynes Reading Room’s “Intersections in Photography” event series.

Miles Hutson

Noted photographers said what it’s like to be behind the lens in a talk on Friday where portraits, music and documentary techniques were discussed. The talk, which featured work from top publications such as Atlantic Monthly, TIME magazine and Rolling Stone, was led by Sarah Wilson, Larry Towell and Louie Palu.

The photographers were hosted by the Austin Center for Photography, which collaborated with the Plan II Honors Program to bring the photographers to present as part of their Intersections in Photography program. Matt Valentine, senior program coordinator for Plan II, said the speakers were chosen for their takes on photographic work.

“We decided on a theme this time of portraits, but we wanted that to be very broad so it wasn’t just formal portraiture,” Valentine said.

Wilson, a Texas native who lives in Austin, gave the first presentation, and said she seeks to capture the nature of an individual in her portrait work. Showing photos from her work with Family Eldercare, a nonprofit that helps provide for the elderly, she said she felt fortunate to get to know her subjects.

“I feel really fortunate to be, like, a witness [or] a sounding board. It’s just an honor to be able to enter someone’s life and listen for an hour,” Wilson said.

Palu, a documentary journalist, focused on his work around different wars, starting out with a collection of video clips he took while working in the field. 

“A lot of my interest in what I cover is pretty much tied to my roots and my parents,” Palu said. “It was always impressed upon me to always know who you are.”

Palu highlighted not just his pictures of soldiers, but his pictures from Canadian mine complexes which helped fuel its participation in world wars.

“Corporations and politicians are as much a part of war as generals and soldiers,” Palu said.

Towell, who said he considers himself a songwriter as well as a photographer, featured film, audio and photos which were edited together to create his impression of his subjects from places such as Palestine and El Salvador.

“To be able to carry a small video camera and shoot stills and video simultaneously and record sound out of my backpack [is a new thing I can do with technology],” Towell said. “I realized as a still photographer I can be in many places people can’t go, and it only made sense to learn to collect the feelings and emotions from those places.”