For every story published in the Advocate magazine, photographers shoot dozens of pictures, and reporters scribble sundry side notes. Only a fraction of the work makes it to the page. The idea of all those fascinating tidbits that never see the light of day can be depressing — and no one wants to start off the New Year despondent over deleted content.
Hence, we give you the cream of the previously unpublished crop.
*Click each image to read the original full-length story behind each photograph*
It was a sweltering summer morning at Flag Pole Hill when we documented the No Big Woof Flyball team for our annual September animal-themed issue. Flyball competitors typically are graceful, bounding, quick breeds — whippets, Australian shepherds and bull terriers. Then there is Bandit, a diminutive dachshund-mix. When it is Bandit’s turn, no one would blame a spectator for giggling. His legs are 2-feet long, if that. He’s adorable, all right, but can he clear the obstacles with those teensy pins? Bandit isn’t laughing. Not only does he race with startling speed and laser focus, he also creates an advantage for the whole squad, because in competition hurdles are lowered to accommodate a team’s shortest member. “I did not expect him to be so fast,” says photographer Rasy Ran, who lay supine and sweat-soaked in the prickly grass to meet Bandit at his level. Bandit put all of our preconceived notions about shorties in check and ran away with our hearts.
John Logan’s story is a real-life, localized version of the movie “Awakenings” (based on a nonfiction book by Oliver Sacks) featured in the January 2015 Advocate. Having suffered Parkinson’s for several years, Logan, his wife, children and grandchildren were at wit’s end and willing to do anything to regain some semblance of John’s previous vigorous, joy-filled self. Shortly after undergoing a relatively new treatment called Deep Brain Stimulation, the former airplane pilot, felt — for a brief, shining moment — fantastic.
CBS 11 newsman Steve Pickett played a key role in our August 2015 feature about Hurricane Katrina survivors who fled to the Lake Highlands area after the storm, published on the 10-year anniversary of the disaster. Pickett traveled to Louisiana to cover Hurricane Katrina and ultimately became a part of an historic event. While photographing Pickett at his Lake Highlands home, we learned he also is an accomplished photographer — the black-and-white portraits in the background are his.
He and his wife, Rachel Roberts-Pickett, collect New Orleans-inspired art, also displayed on Pickett’s wall. He shared his portfolio, which included themes from cityscapes and nature photography to celebrity portraits and artistic nudes.
Photographed for the same package was Lake Highlands native Farrah Gafford, whose life was upended by Katrina. The flood shut down the PH.D program she attended at Tulane University, delaying her graduation until 2008. She continued to research Katrina as it related to urban sociology, race and ethnicity, and she was a valuable source in our story about Katrina survivors. She taught sociology at Xavier University of Louisiana until 2014, when she gave birth to daughter Bailey Zuri Cambrice. Then she moved to Houston, where we photographed her, only because our photographer happened to be traveling through South Texas while we were working on the story (being a hyper-local publication, we enjoy zero travel budget).
Creepy teepee hut
Not at all creepy, it turns out. Last spring, Advocate photographer Danny Fulgencio set out to snap a dozen or so hidden wonders at White Rock Lake. Armed with a shot list provided by the editors, he hiked the dirt paths behind the Old Fish Hatchery, near the lake’s western shore. We promised fascinating scenery — think graffiti-painted benches and photogenic birds — amid towering trees and interlacing trails. Uncovered was something even better than a yellow-bellied sapsucker: a teepee hut, “straight out of ‘The Blair Witch Project,’” the photographer mused. An 11-year-old Lake Highlands resident named John David Aler designed and built the structure, we learned later, after the boy’s father spotted its photo in the Advocate. “We were so excited to see it in the magazine,” his dad David says. “For the past few winters, we have built teepee huts in the woods behind the dam. They get washed away and we rebuild the following winter. My son’s imagination lights up as we build these structures. It’s been a truly great experience every time.” When they returned to area after building the photographed hut, which took two or three full days, they found someone had made use of it. “There was trash, beer cans, inside, and that made me a little bit mad,” John David says. His dad adds that they love the idea of someone going inside and finding warmth or comfort, but the litter is disheartening. More than any tangible result, though, they enjoy the time bonding at their favorite place, they agree. “White Rock Lake is our home away from home,” David says. While slightly bummed to realize our discovery was not contrived by some ghostly draftsman or a Bigfoot, we relished this impromptu introduction to the architecturally inclined Aler family.
Inside a tidily kept Hamilton Park home resides a cute young couple, their precious new baby girl, two cuddly canines and about 60 snakes. We arrived last fall to photograph and interview Klayton Mai (a plumber for the family business by day) about his moonlighting gigs as a snake breeder and mixed martial arts fighter. Inside the so-called “snake room,” Mai pulled open a plastic drawer, revealing four tangled hatchlings. The other cubes, stacked in columns and rows, contained one adult ball python apiece. Working in a reptile room can be intimidating, but Mai’s calming, confident presence and patient genetic-engineering-101 lessons made it feel more like a well-controlled laboratory. Safe. His wife Hannah actually made the serpent-populated space feel homey and inviting. Seven months pregnant at the time, she showed us her favorite snake as well as her pet gecko, which she keeps in its own plastic habitat amid the pythons. Her love notes to Klayton, scrawled on Post It notes, lined one wall.
We first planned to spotlight Lake Highlands resident Sarah Greenman in our annual home design issue (April 2015) due to her proliferation as a blogger on a popular home décor website. But her family was so interesting that the story evolved into a feature about them, Sarah’s art and her youngest son, Charlie, whose birth and life story is astounding. We fell right in love with Charlie and his witty big brother Walker.