Michael and Elizabeth O’Brien: The Face of Texas

He’s an award-winning photographer who’s worked with National Geographic, Texas Monthly and Life. She’s a former reporter for Life. Husband and wife team Michael and Elizabeth O’Brien put their talents together to capture a bit of Texas history with the book The Face of Texas, a series of portraits and profiles of dozens of Texans. Willie Nelson was on the cover of the first edition of the book a few years ago, and he’s on the cover of this updated edition as well. (It’s a stark black-and-white photo showing an unsmiling Nelson in profile, a bit grizzled with a scruffy beard, a long braid falling over his shoulder.) “What better face than Willie [Nelson] to capture the feel of Texas?” Michael O’Brien laughs.

Nelson might be the perfect representation of rugged, semi-outlaw spirit that echoes the state’s Old West heritage, but he’s joined by several beauty queens, musicians, athletes and politicians. There’s Stephanie Kuehne, 1990’s Miss Texas USA and the great-granddaughter of a woman who hunted mountain lions for a living. Kuehne’s shown in full pageant mode. Wearing a winner’s crown and bright pink swimsuit, a bouquet of yellow roses in her arms, she’s standing in front of an Alamo movie set.

There are five girls from Waxahachie High School dance squad Cherokee Charmers, each of them wearing white cowboy boots, a short dance uniform and the perfect big-hair do. There are several Houstonians in the mix, including Lakewood Church leader Joel Osteen (standing in the middle of his cavernous church), socialite Lynn Wyatt (in a red evening gown posed on a River Oaks-area esplanade) and Olympian Carl Lewis (shown in silhouette, his muscles rippling as he takes a runner’s stance). Michael and Elizabeth O’Brien have added 17 new portraits and updated six more for this edition of The Face of Texas.

They’ll be discussing and signing copies of their book in a Blue Willow Bookshop-supported event at 7 p.m. West Houston Community Center Library, 725 Bateswood. For information, call 281‑497‑8675 or visit bluewillowbookshop.com. Free.

Photo: Stephanie Kuehne by Michael O'Brien
Thu., Oct. 30, 7 p.m., 2014

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