Picture Perfect

As the sole studio photographer in Granger from 1924 to 1955, John Trlica recorded on film most of the important occasions—public and private—in the Central Texas farming community. Because Trlica kept meticulous records and saved every negative, his shop became the repository for an intensely documented history of a small town and of a small-town business. In 1980 Trlica’s grandsons gave almost 15,000 film and glass-plate negatives, hundreds of prints, and some of the equipment from their grandfather’s studio to the University of Texas at Austin. When Barbara McCandless, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center’s research associate assigned to process the material, realized what treasures were there, she resolved to turn the massive collection into a book. Just published by Texas A&M University Press, Equal Before the Lens ($34.50) handsomely reproduces 97 of the businessman-photographer’s black and white images. Trlica’s advertising slogan announced, “Photographs Tell the Story.” But McCandless’ text shows how the photograph developed into an essential part of social ritual in rural Texas, from grimly formal nuptial portraits to a group shot of the 1927 Bartlett High School track team.

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