Photocommunication students discover Texas high school football
Christian Ryan Criswell is one of eight students in the St. Edward’s University Photocommunications program taking a course designed to explore and document the unique culture that is Texas high school football: photographing the communities, boosters, mascots, cheerleaders, bands, drill teams, football players, locker rooms and stadiums, coaches, and much more. The students’ photographs will be exhibited at The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin later this fall.
When I heard St. Edward’s was offering a class that would ultimately end with my photographs hanging on the walls of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, I was immediately intrigued. I learned the subject would be Texas High School Football which was something I knew nothing about.
Growing up in Houston and San Antonio, I was homeschooled from fourth grade through high school. My brother and I weren’t interested in sports very much, and we never kept up with friend’s games or practices.
As I challenge myself daily to “say yes” to new things, I quickly enrolled in the class and prepared to embark on a new adventure.
For this project, I decided to stay in the Austin area and shoot Westlake and Anderson high schools at the Berger Center and House Park Stadium. However, during a weekend vacation in Galveston, I managed to gain a different perspective and shot a high school football game on the coast.
As I neared the stadium of my first Texas high school football game, I could already feel the energy. The lot was packed, the band was playing loud and strong, buses were lined up outside, fans were filing in, the stands already full, all against the backdrop of an orange setting sun. I loved everything I saw!
Bill Kennedy, our instructor, had provided a suggested photograph list that gave some ideas on what scenes to look for and what the museum would be interested in displaying. I kept this list in mind while sticking to my natural shooting nature—capturing everything I see. This included kids eating hot dogs, parents cheering for their sons on the fields, cheerleaders applying makeup, coaches planning the next move, and young brothers and sisters playing touch football in open spaces.
I had decided to concentrate on the fans because I love photographing people, especially when they are in the moment and being passionate about something they love. In addition to shooting the fans, I also tried to focus on the mascots, but unfortunately didn’t run into many at the games I attended! Both mascots and fans were eager to have their photo snapped and were very interested in why I was taking photographs, especially the teenagers hoping to have their picture in the school newspaper.
Until this moment, I had never attended a high school game or experienced the anticipation or rush of excitement that comes with it, but after just a few minutes in the stadium it all felt natural, and I found myself invested in the game and cheering for the home team.
Through this photo project, I learned how much fun it can be to be involved in such a passionate close-knit community. I didn’t really have to know anything about the team or the game of football to be accepted. I learned that it wasn’t so much about the sports or the game of it, which kept me from going to games before (because I knew nothing about football), but more about being with friends, performing, proud parents, relaxing after a school week and traditions. I learned a little about the game of football and how it works but definitely have a little more studying to do on that subject!
The opportunity to have my photographs hanging in a museum setting before I have even graduated is almost too incredible to put into words. I am very grateful to be part of this exhibition, and I look forward to seeing the final project on display and sharing it with my family and friends.
–Christian Ryan Criswell is a junior majoring in Photocommunications