Many months ago, we set off on an ambitious project: to photograph the entire perimeter of Texas from the air. With the help of our friend and frequent collaborator Jay B. Sauceda, a pilot and photographer in one, we followed the state’s boundary, from the Chisos to the Panhandle to the Sabine to the Gulf. Along the way, we witnessed our impressive geographic and geological variety, and we were reminded of just what a vast and beautiful place Texas is.
The resulting trove of 44,085 images offers a distinct vantage from which to consider the state. For this special issue, we have paired some of our favorite photos from the project with dispatches from locations where the literal edge of Texas meets with a conceptual one. In El Paso, we find filmmakers exploring the edge of art. On High Island, we look at the edge of nature. We explore identity in Redford, innovation in Houston, existence in Higgins, community in Brownsville, narrative in McAllen, and civilization (or its end) in Ector.
What we hope becomes clear as you page through this issue—everything between these covers, from our Chat with a former immigration officer to Pat Sharpe’s review of a forward-thinking Houston restaurant, picks up on the Edge theme—is how vibrant our state is. Everywhere we looked we found both familiarity and newness, a willingness to respect tradition while working toward what’s next. The earliest Texans came here to find space and opportunity, and people still do so today, drawn by a spirit of optimism, self-reliance, and big thinking. Texas is more than a state, of course. It’s an identity that’s continuously evolving.
As you might imagine, we couldn’t encompass the whole of Texas—or even the whole of this particular project—in the print issue. So here on our redesigned website we have collected more of Sauceda’s incredible photos, as well as behind-the-scenes shots and video from our travels along the state’s borders. Collectively, we think you’ll find that this presentation, of a place that has always epitomized the frontier both literally and figuratively, reveals a Texas at once recognizable and surprising.
One man’s quest to fly the length of Texas’s perimeter and capture the nature of our boundaries.
by Rick Bass
DISPATCH FROM HOUSTON
It Can’t All be Energy
A heart surgeon leads his city to the forefront of medical innovation.
by Mimi Swartz
DISPATCH FROM HIGH ISLAND
The Hungry Tide
On the coast, nothing is permanent.
by John Nova Lomax
DISPATCH FROM ECTOR
A Home of Last Resort
Breaking ground—and betting big— on a doomsday community or the rich.
by Sonia Smith
DISPATCH FROM HIGGINS
Little Town on the Prairie
A struggling community forges a life for itself against the odds.
by Skip Hollandsworth
DISPATCH FROM EL PASO
Get the Picture?
A filmmaker’s effort to share stories from her home turf, one female-directed movie at a time.
by Katy Vine
DISPATCH FROM REDFORD
This American Life
Twenty years ago, a brown-skinned boy was shot to death near the Rio Grande. What fate awaits my son?
by Sterry Butcher
DISPATCH FROM MCALLEN
A group of young activists reclaim the language and words that have been used to define them.
by Pamela Colloff
DISPATCH FROM BROWNSVILLE
How a civic-minded, cowboy-themed party came to represent an identity that’s not so easily split.
by Cecilia Ballí