Houstonians might best know Gary Watson as the man behind the short film and brilliant comic book After Twilight, a dark, dystopian work in which Texas secedes from the union to create a religious dictatorship. Every year it hits a little closer to home, honestly, but Watson is leaving behind a lot of his previous work for a new career in art photography.
"I've been making movies since 1967, when I was a teenager," says Watson. "At this point in my life, I decided to so something for myself. I'm having a great time. It's been a real year of self-discovery."
Watson is moving on to art photography and documentary photography, and will be opening his studio tonight and next Saturday as a part of Spring Street Studios' regular open-studio events. It's a great chance to look at him in his new discipline.
Part of what he'll be showing is a selection of images done with local model Autumn Faith Smith, who has been focusing on her modeling work more exclusively after previously being involved in the local parkour and poetry scenes. She met Watson through burlesque star and sexy clown Kiki Maroon and Mildred's Umbrella's artistic director, Jennifer Decker. They mentioned Watson was looking for new models to work with, and Watson and Smith got in touch.
"The series that Autumn stars in is my latest work," says Watson. It's very expressive. I don't have a lot of interest in glamour or pin-up. Instead, I want an image to express an emotion."
In this case, the series of three photos represent searching for something. The title of each contains a missing word, meant to make the reader mentally fill in the blank as the reader identifies with a person search of his or her own. For instance, one is called "Sometimes ____ seems unattainable."
Almost all of the work that Watson will have on display is truly old-school. Virtually none of it is digital. He shoots analog on film and processes in a dark room. According to Smith, this makes shooting with the photographer a slightly different experience that doing so on digital.
"It was so cool, seeing all these antique cameras that only shoot in black and white," says Smith. "It's a little weird, because you sort of get used to the idea that a photographer will play around with the image after you're done with it. With Gary, I knew that what was shot was more or less what was shot."
After so many years of making movies, Watson is enjoying his semi-retirement, even if he's not actually stopping making art all that much. Art photography is just the latest in a long career of making an impact with images for him.
Gary Watson's studio will be open for viewing at Spring Street Studios tonight from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, December 13, from 2 to 5 p.m.