Texans have documented their lives using home movie cameras for a century. This exhibit gathers clips from more than 100 home movies to explore themes both universal and specifically Texan.
1971 to Today
Johnny Ryan, age four, leaves his grandparents’ house in Houston. The year is 1971. He waves, instinctively or perhaps at the prompting by the person behind the camera. The original creator likely never imagined the footage would be seen outside their circle of family and friends. Fifty years later, a version digitized and archived by Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) streams on its website for people across Texas and the world to watch.
Experience, Memory, and History
What happens when home movies are publicly disseminated and viewed by a wider audience? Do they become historical or cultural artifacts? We think so. These home movies display much about Texas: its unique history, culture, and geography, as well as the diverse populations that make up its multifaceted identity. On a broader scale, they raise questions about image-making and the human experience. What moments were deemed worth preserving and revisiting, and what might these reveal about the lives of the people in front of and behind the camera?
Experience, Memory, and History
Home movies capture the way people walked, their mannerisms and interactions—aspects that paint a more tangible portrait of both the filmed subjects and their filmers. Home movie-making grew significantly following World War II when advances in technology made cameras more affordable and portable and again in the 1980s with the introduction of the camcroder. Instead of merely smiling for a still camera, kids could wave (and eventually say) “hello!”
Caught in a Home Movie (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
A Journey through Home Movies
In this exhibit, you will explore clips from more than 100 home movies donated to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image collection. Many touch on the common experiences that are most associated with home movies: birthdays, holidays, and travel. Upon closer inspection, however, these films are anything but generic. In addition to revealing information about the time and place in which they were made and the people who made them, several films catalogue beloved Texan landscapes, events, and traditions, including rodeos, bluebonnet fields, Mexican border parades, and more.
As the label suggests, home movies frequently capture special moments associated with domestic life, including religious ceremonies, birthdays, graduations, weddings, and family reunions. Such milestones punctuate the “slice of life” compilation video that follows, spanning seven decades of TAMI’s home movie collection.
A Life in Moving Images (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Many Latina girls mark their turning fifteen with a special celebration. La fiesta de quince años, also known as a quinceañera, is a centuries-old rite of passage, a religious and social event signifying the celebrant’s entry into adulthood. Quinceañeras often feature a church service followed by a party, with the birthday girls in elaborate dresses and her damas (maids of honor) in matching gowns. According to the non-profit organization Jolt Action, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 quinceñeras happen in Texas each year.
In 1965, Cristela Gonzales Bond traveled to her mother’s birth city of San Luis Potosí in Mexico to celebrate her quinceañera. In an interview with TAMI, Ms. Bond recalled the event being much more lavish and elaborate than an equivalent one that her family’s socio-economic circumstances would have allowed in Texas. She also recounted having to pin on, in the name of religious propriety, temporary short sleeves to the sleeveless white dress for the church service. The dress—a custom-made, crystal-embellished, A-line gown—survives to this day and has been worn by Ms. Bond’s daughter. Upon returning to the United States, she remembered sharing the home movie with her girlfriends, whose quinceañeras she also attended when she returned to Houston.
Cristela's Quinceañera (1965) by Texas Archive of the Moving Image, Cristela Gonzalez BondTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Los Quince Años, 1980s - 2000s
The following compilation gathers home movie footage from quinceañera celebrations across the state between 1989 and 2005. The most noticeable change when compared to Cristela’s 1965 video is the presence of live sound as recorded on video and digital cameras. Despite this visceral difference, the videos illustrate just how many traditions have remained the same — the white dresses, grand entrances, dances, music, toasts, and cake-cutting — all while surrounded by friends and family happily celebrating the special occasion.
Contemporary Quinceaneras (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
The American Pet Products Association reports that more than 60 percent of households have pets today, with cats and dogs topping the list as most common and numerous. It should come as no surprise that these adored furry companions have starred in home movie footage as long as film has been in existence. The following compilation shows just a segment of the many films featuring Texans at play with pets.
Pets in Texas Home Movies (2020/2020) by Texas Archive of the Moving Image, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Another mainstay to home movie collections? Holidays. As the second-most populated state in the nation, residents of Texas come from a multitude of cultural and religious backgrounds and celebrate a diverse range of holidays. The following compilation spanning decades of home movies showcases several major holidays, organized chronologically over the calendar year.
Holidays (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Texas Road Trips
Post-WWII American life not only featured an increase in the number of families with access to home movie cameras but also a tremendous boom in private car ownership and significant national interstate highway construction. Closely associated with the expansive, dramatic scenery of the American West, 1950s automobile culture and the allure of the open road endures to this day. As the largest state in the contiguous United States with innumerable and varied vistas and landscapes, Texas measures 877 miles east to west by I-10, and 407 miles north to south by I-35. This compilation of home movies includes films of Texas road trips from the 1950s and 1960s, from long hauls on interstate highways to detours on scenic byways.
Road Trips (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Sometimes the journey is the destination, but Texas certainly boasts no shortage of natural, manmade, and historic attractions that have drawn camera-toting visitors to them over the last century. From the beaches of the Gulf Coast to the deserts of West Texas, the state features vast geographic diversity in addition to housing three of the top-ten most populous cities in the country as of 2020: Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. The video that follows offers a sampling of the many travel destinations in Texas from these and other regions.
Texas Travels (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
The Texas bluebonnet, or lupinus texensis, is the official flower of Texas and a beloved symbol of the state. Endemic to Texas and the Mexican regions that border it, the bluebonnet is an annual that blooms rapidly and suddenly in the spring, usually around late March to mid April. Bluebonnets popping up on the side of highways signal the change of season, while entire fields covered in a sea of white-tipped blue flowers make for the signature backdrop of countless photo opportunities. Every spring, travel websites and amateur blogs publish lists of the best places in the state to see bluebonnets. In the following compilation, visitors (including former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson) take their home movie cameras to said fields to pose, play, and admire this spectacular phenomenon.
Bluebonnets (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Enjoying Wildflowers with the Coltmans
In 1962, Felicity Coltman, a South African native, traveled to Texas to join her husband, a student at UT-Austin. In an interview with TAMI, she recalled how excited and happy she was to visit the United States for the first time, accompanied by the youngest of her three children, here only about three months old. As prolific home movie makers armed with a tripod and a strong aesthetic sense, Ms. Coltman and her husband documented their travels and their home life, with Mr. Coltman then often undertaking the editing process himself. The Coltman collection numbers over 20 films on TAMI’s website, and features their many travels around the state. In this video, Ms. Coltman and her infant son enjoy bluebonnet season in Austin.
Wildflowers with the Coltmans (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Often associated with the American West in popular culture, rodeo is a competitive sport with historical roots in Spain and Mexico. Originally based on the skills required by vaqueros and, later, cowboys, contemporary rodeos comprise several events, including roping, steer wrestling, bronco and bull riding, and barrel racing. Rodeo is the official state sport of Texas, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest of its kind in the world. In addition to high school and regional competitions, a more unconventional rodeo event was the so-called Prison Rodeo, which took place in Huntsville from 1931 to 1986 to fund educational and recreational programs for Texas State Penitentiary inmates. This compilation gathers home movie footage from the 1965 Prison Rodeo, as well as rodeos of different formats and sizes from across the state, representing the 1940s to the 1990s.
Rodeos (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Rodeos in Texas are often accompanied by kick-off parades featuring riders, marching bands, floats, dance troupes, and community organizations. While parades marking holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are common all across the country and state, many Texas towns feature unique parades with deep historical and cultural roots. San Antonio’s Battle of Flowers Parade dates back to 1891 and commemorates the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. The parade, organized entirely by women, is part of the annual Fiesta San Antonio, the city’s largest festival. Meanwhile, the Charro Days Parade in Brownsville has, since 1938, kicked off the Charro Days Fiesta, an event celebrating the rich shared heritage and culture of the Texas-Mexican border region. TAMI’s collection well illustrates that amateur movie-makers have always loved to film a parade.
Parades (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
The weather in Texas is as varied and complex as its geography. The state has experienced more than its share of natural disasters, while smaller-scale meteorological extremes can be seen in unexpected snow, dust storms, or heavy rains. These phenomena can cause devastating damage on the one hand, or not-unwelcome surprises on the other. The latter is perhaps most the case with snowfall, a novelty in many regions of Texas as demonstrated by the many home movies that document families enthusiastically building snowmen or dogs enjoying the powder in a state most associated with the heat in popular imagination. The compilation that follows offers a few examples of these moments, along with large-scale weather events that were captured in home movies.
Weather (2020) by TAMI, Francesca LambertTexas Archive of the Moving Image
Home Movies Then and Now
While home movie makers relied on bulkier formats like Super 8 and VHS for decades, now entire feature films are shot on smartphones—a device found in an estimated 96 percent of American pockets. Unfettered by the restraints of film cartridge size or the costs of developing film stock, people can now film essentially endless hours of digital footage to store in the cloud or share privately and publicly. Smartphone cameras have fundamentally changed the way we document our lives, and as a result how we conceptualize and understand home movies.
The Future of Home Movies
Do we still ask our friends and families to “wave to the camera?” With the increasing popularity of front-facing cameras and self-recording, what is now considered a home movie? Does it even remain productive to think of contemporary home movies through the same analytic lenses used for films from previous decades? What will these films and videos tell us about our state and culture a hundred years from now? Though much remains to be seen, home movie making, as practice, hobby, and even art, has a rich history that organizations like Texas Archive of the Moving Image are working to preserve and pass on to future generations.
Wave for the Camera was curated by Francesca Lambert for the Texas Archive of the Moving Image as a part of the Texas Film Commission's Texas Moving Image Archive Program.
Edited by Caroline Frick, Elizabeth Hansen, and Katharine Austin.
It features more than 100 home movies contributed to the award-winning Texas Film Round-Up program by the following individuals and organizations: Alan Frye, Arch Campbell, Bahram Yousefi, Barbara Moser, Bell County Museum, Betty Mayer, Bill Minter, Brazoria County Historical Museum, Brenda Riley, Bruce Blalock, Carla Click, Carolyn Minton, Charles Horak, Chris Cummings, City of Wichita Falls Public Information Office, Craig Fridley, Cristela Gonzalez Bond, Daryl Mitchell, David Ayala, Diane Moore, Donna Ryan Pfeffer, Emil Wesselsky, Eva Jean Blount, Fara Rollins, Fernando Parra, Fort Davis National Historical Site, Fred Napp, Frieda Lee Schwartz, Galveston and Texas History Center - Rosenberg Library, Gay Cormier, Hamon Arts Library - SMU, Happy Foundation, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Howard Hackney, Ines Navarrete, Jack Hayward, Jan Valentine, Jana Jenkins, Janis Test, Jeffrey Schwartz, Jessica Moncada, Joe Jeoffroy, John Frick, Jorge L. Moreno, Jorge S. Perez, Lamar University, Manuel & Diana Saucedo, Maria Lilia Martinez, Mary Jo Hoover, Maxie Davie, McFaddin-Ward House, Michael Koehl, Michael R. Moore, Michele Cook, Michelle Ontiveros, Milo Marks, Molly Bergman, Molly Block, Norma DeLeon Cruz, Norma Munoz, Ouida Whitaker Dean, Palin Bree, Patricia Strait, Perry and Melanie Kirkland, Peter and Felicity Coltman, Ramon Galindo, Randal Jeske, Richard Eisenhour, Robert Henderson, Ronnie Cochrane, Ryan Battle, Sally L. Trusler, Sheryl Opperman, Stephen Orsak, Stephen Russell, Sterling Miller, Steve Candelari, Steve Gomez, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Texas Surf Museum, Thomas F. Freeman, Tonda Chapa, and Victor Black.