The Culture

Photos of East Austin, Before the Boom

John Langmore appeared at the 2019 Texas Book Festival. Read more from our collection covering the festival's authors here.

For four years, beginning in 2006, Austin photographer John Langmore trained his camera on a moving target: the city’s quickly gentrifying East Side, long home to much of Austin’s African American and Latino populations. But as the city’s economy boomed in recent years, new arrivals, many of them white professionals, began moving in, looking to live near the city’s vibrant downtown. 

In many ways, this was a positive development. Derelict lots were cleaned up and put to good use. Longtime homeowners sold their houses and made a windfall. Some veteran merchants prospered as new money flowed in. But as Langmore’s Fault Lines: Portraits of East Austin (Maverick Books / Trinity University Press) makes clear, there have been profound costs as well: two communities bound by the thick, multigenerational ties of family and tradition are in danger of coming apart. “There was a rich sense of community in East Austin, a real ‘it takes a village’ approach to raising the younger generation,” resident Johnny Limón writes in an essay included in the book. Much of that has disappeared.

Langmore focuses on those old ways, rather than on the conflict between old and new. The East Austin portrayed here is a place of street fiestas, barbershop gossip, and Sunday-morning church services, not brewpubs, fancy coffee shops, and limestone-and-brushed-nickel apartment complexes. It’s a snapshot of a place that, Langmore writes, “time will render unrecognizable to future generations.”

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Tags: Books, East Austin, John Langmore, Texas Book Festival

Comments

  • I left Austin in 2008, this is still how I remember it in my mind. It shocks me driving through the East Side now how much it’s changed.

  • Benito Deepfried

    I haven’t been to Austin in 20 years. Not sure I’d like it given my memories are from when I was a student at UT during the 70’s. Only time I drove through East Austin was to drive to my hometown of Houston.

  • KathyfromAustin

    I don’t recognize Austin much anymore. I’ve lived here for 25+ years. East Austin was sadly the first to go. Yet it’s a city-wide problem.

    We built our home 25 years ago. Raised our children in this home, hosted every holiday known to man attended by family throughout the state. My home is paid for. I worked until we paid it off in full when my children were in elementary school.
    But my taxes now exceed the original mortgage payment. So we’re moving—along with most of my neighbors—and it sold the day before listing. Yesterday.

    I hope the Californian loves this home as much as we did!

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