Tonight: "Live In Texas" Photo Exhibit at Cactus Music

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Cool photo, huh? That's the work of Cy-Fair native Stephanie Alexander, who now has one of the choicest jobs any music-loving camera hound could hope for - even if it is in Dallas: house photographer for American Airlines Arena, the Big D counterpart to Toyota Center. The ZZ Top shot comes from the Lil' Ol' Band from right here's recent Live in Texas package - filmed at the Nokia Theater in Grand Prairie, where Alexander was the only still photographer allowed full access throughout the show.

Alexander has collected north of 25 of her favorite shots - Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, the Cure - into the "Live in Texas" exhibit that will hang in Cactus Music's Record Ranch until April 5. Alexander will be on hand for the opening tonight at 7 p.m. (Tody Castillo performs; free beer), and spoke to Rocks Off earlier this week about how she wound up in the pit.

Rocks Off: Tell me a little background and how you came to put this thing together.

Stephanie Alexander: I grew up in Houston, lived there for about 17 years, and moved out to Los Angeles and worked for Sony Music out there. I lived there for six years and went to school, and went into photography and started shooting different bands for Sony on the side.

RO: You were a photographer for the label?

SA: I wasn't, actually. I was working for Sony distribution. Part of my job was to show up at different showcases for different artists and show your support from the label and all that good stuff. I would just bring my camera along. One of the main shows I shot down there was Los Lonely Boys in Marina del Rey. I brought the photos back to the marketing department and said, "I don't know if you want to do anything with these." They were like, "Yes, we do!" 

Stephanie Alexander (cont'd): They ended up using those for the radio station there and eventually started hiring me for CD listening parties. I shot Duran Duran's listening party when they first regrouped - that was really exciting. I shot Xzibit for the label. I realized, "You know, I love this, and it's always been on the back burner and [laughs] no one likes working for the man, so I decided to pursue it.

Oddly enough, my husband got relocated back to Texas, in Dallas. At that point, I'm like, "Why not see what I can do with it?" Positions opened up at American Airlines Center here, they needed a house photographer. I've been shooting for them for over three years now.

RO: How did you get interested in photography?

SA: I did it back in high school. I worked for the yearbook and all that good stuff, but my main passion was music. I wanted to be involved in some way. I love music; I'm a fan. To combine those two passions never really occurred to me, more or less. I didn't think I could really do it. It's hard to find your absolute love in a job and make money off of it. Things just kind of fell into place, and I'm lovin' life right now.

RO: Are most of the pictures in your exhibit from American Airlines?

SA: They are at different venues. I'm also shooting at House of Blues up here. I shot Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd for a Cigar Aficionado cover - they came to the opening of the House of Blues and needed publicity photos, so I shot them there. I shoot Nokia Theater here as well.

RO: Are you able to make your living full-time as a photographer now?

SA: Yes.

RO: Must be nice.

SA: It is, and I don't knock it when I get offered weddings, and I love doing children's photography and things like that to fill up my time, but Dallas is a really huge concert scene - there's so many musicians coming through that there's so many great opportunities. I'm a bigger fish in a smaller pond out here versus L.A., where everything is high competition.

RO: Do you prefer to shoot one particular style of music, or do you like it all?

SA: I like it all, but my main love would be rock and roll. Just because the energy the band provides, and the crowd. I find myself getting caught up when I'm shooting different artists because I get excited. Green Day was amazing. At one point, I was in the pit - I dropped my camera and went like, "Yeah!" I can't help it [laughs], and I think it kind of helps when they look down and the photographers are not all, like, a been here done that kind of attitude. One thing I ought to add - being a female photographer sometimes helps [laughs].

RO: How's that?

SA: I get more reaction. Typically, I don't see that many female photographers that often. It's cool when I do, but, it's a cool little aspect of my little nook, you know?

RO: Of the pictures in the show, is there any one that was especially hard to get, or any interesting stories behind them?

SA: Well, with the ZZ Top, it was a really unique experience because I was able to shoot from start to finish. I shot for their Live in Texas CD and DVD from the actual concert, so I was actually able to have full access. That was great, because I'm not limited to two songs and that's it. I was able to shoot backstage in the dressing room, during rehearsal and throughout the entire show. That was incredible. Towards the end, they were posing for me - it was great.

That was really exciting - they're Texas legends, and I grew up listening to ZZ Top. And of course all the legends - the Who, Rolling Stones, all the bigwigs - it was amazing to have an opportunity to capture them.

RO: Are you allowed to meet any of these people?

SA: Sometimes I have an opportunity to because I'm friends with who's working in the building. There are certain situations that come up. Sometimes for American Airlines Center before the artist goes on, they ask me to go backstage and take a group photo with the VIPs with the artist. The Eagles, when they were here, I was asked to go back and photograph Joe Walsh.

RO: I had to do the same thing.

SA: Oh cool! Did you do it for Houston?

RO: Yeah.

SA: Excellent! Posing with the guitar?

RO: Yep. That's how I got my tickets.

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