Avenue Barbershop is a photography project inspired by a desire to genuinely connect with authentic people.  This project depicts a heartbeat in urban America, specifically in Austin, Texas—a city that embraces individualism and counterculture.  When most people think of Austin, they might visualize millennials with thick-framed glasses and neatly trimmed beards congregating at craft breweries, coffee shops, and live music venues. On the surface they couldn’t be more correct, but there is more here than meets the eye.  

Moving to Austin was a unique culture shock for me.  As a Navy Veteran I was acclimated to a culture that upholds a standard of genuine courtesy and respect.  Before serving in the military, I lived in the culturally vibrant city of Houston, Texas.  Despite over six million people residing there, I found small town ways to embrace my city.  

According to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, there are over 150 people that settle in the Austin area each day.  This influx may be exciting to some, but it has become increasingly alarming to others that have been feeling the growing pains.  I have noticed that it comes at a tragic social price.  When I fulfilled my dream of moving to Austin, I discovered casual interactions felt insincere.  I wondered whether traditional southern hospitality dissipated as a result of the city’s growth and gentrification.  Nonetheless, I refused to allow these interactions to callous me.  Instead, I became inspired to seek out authentic connections with locals. 

Serendipity guided me to Avenue Barbershop. I was drawn in by its timeless appearance, yet somehow it was impervious to the noisy growth all around me.  Avenue Barbershop had a small town charm that mingled with the cultural diversity of today, all while it preserving its essence since 1933.  Beneath the barbers’ inked sleeves were professionals with a polite demeanor.  Engaging in conversations with these folks gave me a sense of belonging.  Even without ink, we found we had plenty in common—we acknowledge the power in simple interactions and how it can be used to make meaningful connections within our community. 

The Avenue Barbershop Project exemplifies genuine interactions and ordinary life in Austin, Texas.  We all yearn for the freedoms of belonging and the liberating experience of human connection.  A friend once led me to this understanding when she told me that the best things we can offer to others in this life are free: unconditional acceptance and respect.  Moreover, this project serves as a priceless contribution to my mission as a photographer, “to capture the essence of the human experience through imagery and cultural exchange”.

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