Our year in photos

Our year in photos

Statesman photographers share some favorite images from 2019

At the end of every year, I am surprised at how quickly the time has passed. It is the time the visual journalist staff gather our personal favorite photos to share the images we enjoyed making. The photos we choose always impress me. Sometimes it is the subject matter or situation that makes it stand out. Other times, what we went through to make the image cements it in our brain as a standout photo. Just as songs remind us of certain times in our lives, the photos we make for our community and beyond keep the memories alive.
-Nell Carroll, Director of Visuals

Jay Janner / Staff photographer

Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a historic African American church, was destroyed by a tornado in La Grange on May 3. Two tornadoes caused significant damage in Fayette County, but no one was injured. The direct overhead angle in this aerial photo provides a unique view of the flattened church and shows the power of the storm. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Abraham Jackson, 4, plays a video game Feb. 6 in the yard of his home in Donna. He, his mother and grandparents live south of the proposed path of a future section of a border wall. They are worried they'll be stuck on the wrong side of the border wall in a no man's land. “It’s really peaceful, but once we are behind that wall it will be really scary,” his grandmother Theresa Jackson said. “To me it would be creepy, knowing we were isolated back here.” The evening light was fading fast when I took this photo of young Abraham concentrating on his video game and unaware of the heated national debate about a border wall that could someday pass through his yard. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Thorndale centerfielder Hannah Laurence, right, is consoled by manager Kloie Cargill after Thorndale lost 8-7 to Crawford at the UIL 2A Softball State Championship game at McCombs Field on May 30. The raw emotion of the young athlete made this one of my most memorable photos of the year. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Albert Bravo of Garland stuffs mini donuts in his mouth June 7 during the World Hostess Donettes Eating Contest at Barton Creek Square Mall. Geoffrey Esper of Oxford, Massachusetts, the No. 3-ranked competitive eater in the world, ate 235 Hostess Donettes in six minutes to win the contest. Ten competitive eaters from across the U.S. participated in the Major League Eating event for $8,000 in prize money. I like the humor in the way his eyes rolled back in his head. There were some of the most memorable six minutes of the year. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Gary Lupher listens to EDM artist Troyboi on Oct. 4 at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park. The 17th annual ACL Fest was hot, with temperatures in the upper 90s and a heat index even higher. Performers and their fans sweated throughout the weekend, but Lupher kept his cool in a shirt and tie. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
People experiencing homelessness rest on the sidewalk Nov. 5 on Neches Street across from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, the day after a cleanup of the homeless camp outside the shelter. I photographed Austin's homeless crisis for much of the year, and this photo sums it up best. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Ricardo Brazziell, Staff photographer

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) controls the ball behind his back as Texas Longhorns linebacker Joseph Ossai (46) tries to force a fumble on the play in the third quarter during an NCAA college football game Oct. 12 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The light was in my favor during the game, and this is one of my favorite images from the football season. I was amazed at how Hurts could keep control of the ball and not fumble as Ossai had his entire hand in the mix of that play. Hurts completed a first-down pass on this play. This play was also on ESPN's top plays of the week for the razzle and dazzle. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Texas Longhorns guard Sophie Taylor (5) joins her teammates as they throw water on head coach Karen Aston while they celebrate in the locker room after beating Stanford, 69-64, during an NCAA women's basketball game at the Frank Erwin Center. I was in the corner knowing at any minute that I was about to get kicked out of the locker room before I shot this image, and shooting this image was such fun! I had the chance to see the reward behind the hard work for reaching a goal. If you don't know Aston, you would say she is all business and no fun. Seeing this image, however, gives you a quick glimpse into the relationship that a coach has with her players. The team plotted to dunk Aston with water as she entered the locker room, but the coach had another plan in mind. Aston countered the team’s plot, which a good coach should do, and entered through another door, catching her players off guard and splashing them. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Texas Longhorns forward Gerald Liddell (0) is fouled by McNeese State Cowboys forward Sha'markus Kennedy (23) and McNeese State Cowboys guard Roydell Brown (22) as he loses the ball Nov. 30 in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Frank Erwin Center. I could just feel the pain on my nose while I took this image during the game. Brown slapped that ball out from Liddell and followed through to his face with force. An action play that doesn't happen every game. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
I had to throw this image in the mix as one of my favorite photos of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, photographed here on June 14. Sam was down to earth and very easy to work with. I had my iPhone playing trap music just so he could relax and set the mood. It took me 20 minutes out of the 30 minutes allotted for the shoot. I used five lights on this image. My ISO was 100, the aperture was at F20, the shutter speed was 1/50. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
People try to walk across the street July 15 as rain sweeps through downtown Austin. I had to wait for more than 25 minutes to try to capture a rain feature like this one at the corner of 399 Brazos St. So many people walked past me, but none of them made good images until this family walked past. The little girl was the icing on the cake when she turned around; without her it would have been water and a bunch of back of heads in this image. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Nick Wagner / Staff photographer

Runners compete in a preliminary of the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase during the NCAA outdoor track and field championships on June 6. Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to host a track meet in Texas’ June heat? A member of the ESPN camera crew said the temperature on the track reached 115 degrees, but still the athletes never let up in pursuit of an NCAA title. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Bevo XV storms onto the field Sept. 7 before an NCAA football game between Texas and LSU in Austin. You never know what you’ll get when you set up a remote. Luckily, Bevo XV treated me better on this day than he did at the Sugar Bowl, when his horn made a direct hit on my back. It always becomes somewhat of an experience to tear down the remote camera setup and frantically scroll through the shots to see if you got exactly what you hoped for on camera. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Connally football’s Jahdae Barron poses for a portrait Dec. 18, in Austin. Barron is part of the Statesman’s All-Centex program honoring outstanding achievements by high school athletes. Starting today, I’ll be keeping a set of grills in my camera bag to give to anyone I make a portrait of. (Just kidding, we don’t do that.) I have the most fun making portraits of high school athletes. Being the youngest photographer on staff, it’s cool to be able to bounce ideas off of student athletes and watch their confidence grow through the shoot. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
It was powerful to witness two friends comforting one another as the names of children who died while in ICE custody were read aloud to the crowd. My goal everyday is to convey the emotions I witness so readers better understand what their neighbors are experiencing in their community. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Lightning illuminates the sky on June 9 in Austin. Mother Nature will never get boring to me. Whenever it flexes its muscles I try my best to capture it. Most of the time it’s luck, but I like to think the time spent in my 100-level meteorology class has helped out at least a wee bit. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Kiera Whisenant of Buda looks through a hot dog cutout with her grandparents, Margaret and B.R. of McAllen, while taking a photo in front of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile during the 22nd Annual Wiener Dog Races on April 28 in Buda. It’s fun to turn an assignment into a feature hunt when there’s a lull in the main attraction, and that’s exactly how this image came about. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Texas guard Kerwin Roach II flashes the "Hook 'Em Horns" sign following Texas' 75-72 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college basketball game Jan. 19 in Austin. When you shoot the majority of Texas sports, you get to know the players pretty well, and it can definitely pay dividends when they spot you on the court and ham it up for the camera like Snoop did after he led the Horns to a big win over hated Oklahoma. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Ana Ramirez / Staff videographer

Becka Sterling, 32, took an hour doing her hair Oct. 13 before attending the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park. ACL Fest is always a hectic experience for photographers. Deadlines, crowds, heat and cold. I enjoy taking a break from photographing the bands to find unique characters. I felt like Sterling stuck out more than most. I love the color of her hair against the sky. [ANA RAMIREZ/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Valerie Bermudez, from center left, Kendal Gibson, Tomas Cruz, Amanda Avalos and Josiah Hernandez wait for their portraits to be taken June 27 during the 66th annual queen coronation at the Watermelon Thump in Luling. Bermudez was crowned queen, and Avalos was announced as the princess. Since moving to Texas, I’ve wanted to cover the Watermelon Thump; there’s something fascinating about small-town festivals. I like this photo because it shows all the girls’ emotions, and I think it captures what the festival is all about. [ANA RAMIREZ/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
George Lopez, a Mexican-American comedian, poses for a portrait April 9 during the LBJ Library's Summit on Race. Lopez has "Darkness" tattooed on his hand in memory of comedian Charlie Murphy, whose nickname was Darkness. I've always been uncomfortable taking portraits. This year I made it a goal to push myself more in this area. This particular assignment was great to practice with. I had only a few minutes to work with Mr. Lopez and didn’t have time to be hesitant. Overall I was pleased with the outcome. [ANA RAMIREZ/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Daniel Suarez, 15, practices his lassoing technique on March 30 at Rancho Tres Potrancas in Austin. Suarez is on a 15-member team called El Herradero. I spent time with El Herradero as they practiced the sport of charrer’a. I was amazed by the level of dedication and love for the sport. This photo reminds me of how much fun I had out on the ranch learning about the Mexican tradition. [ANA RAMIREZ/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
A woman reads a book Feb. 25 while on a train from Paris, France, to Luzern, Switzerland. At the beginning of the year I was lucky enough to travel a few places in Europe. I hadn’t traveled on trains until that trip. There was something magical about the sound and watching people take a moment to relax from their daily lives. I used my cellphone to photograph the woman pictured for a few minutes before getting the image I wanted. She didn’t look up once from her book. [ANA RAMIREZ/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Richard Overton was the oldest living World War II veteran. He died on Dec. 27, 2018, at the age of 112. There was a public viewing on Jan. 11, 2019. Two years ago one of my first assignments was to photograph Overton. I didn’t know what was so special about him until I approached his front door. There were TV crews waiting to take turns going inside. When I walked in he was already smoking a cigar. I was sad to find out about his death and made it a point to be a part of his funeral coverage. I was amazed by what an impact one man made on people. I spoke to numerous folks during his public viewing and met people who traveled from all over to pay their respects. Some never met the man but were inspired by his longevity, hoping to live as long as he did. [ANA RAMIREZ/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
I was fortunate to spend time spread out over a few months, with the El Herradero charrería team. Charrería is a competitive event similar to rodeo and was developed from animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of old Mexico. Roberto Chavira was welcoming from the start. He patiently explained the sport then let me freely roam around his property. When he introduced me to his teammates, I instantly knew I wanted to interview Jose Guillermo Suarez Barron. There was something about him that made me think he had an interesting story to tell. The challenge with my interview Suarez Barron was that he speaks Spanish and I don't all that well. We both knew enough of each other's language to communicate conversationally but when it came to a formal interview I needed the help of my co-worker Nick Wagner. Watching the video reminds me of how much fun I had out on the ranch learning about the Mexican tradition. The sense of community during the practices and the events was something I hadn’t seen before. I am amazed at the level of dedication and love for the sport within the community.
Each year the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign highlights local families that could use a helping hand during the holiday season. The newspaper shares families’ stories with the community with the hope that assistance will come for the families to help with medical bills, housing repairs,reliable transportation and more. It's my favorite story to cover because I feel like it's the one time of year that I’m able to help to make a small difference in people’s lives. I was touched after reading about Monica Beakley and her son, Jesse Jakob Estala. I wanted to help anyway I could. Beakley is a strong, independent woman who spends most of her time advocating for her son who suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him blind. Beakley was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell adenocarcinoma in 2015. Beakley was hesitant about being the subject of my video because she doesn’t want others to feel sorry for her. She's often too sick and exhausted after caring for her son, that it's difficult for her to have company. We had to reschedule more than a few times. This story was one of the more challenging videos I’ve done. I needed to decide if this story was worth sticking with. It would have been easier to choose another family. I had to ask myself why I felt the need to tell Beakley and Estala’s story. Ultimately it came down to I knew sharing their story would have more impact on video than it would with still photographs. Being able to share their story was one of the most humbling experiences.

Bronte Wittpenn / Staff videographer

On July 20, 2018, Zachary Sutterfield, 21, jumped out of a window when a fire broke out at Iconic Village Apartments in San Marcos. The fire, believed to be arson, killed five people, including two of his roommates. The flames burned 70% of his body, and the impact of the fall caused a traumatic brain injury. A year later, Sutterfield has undergone 24 operations. I didn't know what to expect when I was sent to this assignment. I was told I may or may not get an opportunity to photograph him. I knew very little about him or the trauma he faced. I was taken aback by his strength and how he carried himself. After he talked about loving himself and his skin again, I knew I had to try to compose an image that showed just that. So, I asked him if he'd be comfortable taking his shirt off for the portrait. I regretted asking immediately, thinking I might have offended him, but his reaction was just the opposite. That portrait session with Zach I will never forget. [BRONTE WITTPENN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Natalie Hernandez, 18, holds a sign that reads “gentrification and AISD working hand in hand” during a protest Oct. 2 against school closures outside of Martin Middle School. Hernandez's family has been living on Austin's east side for nearly 60 years. While district officials have said the schools are under-enrolled and too costly to maintain, many affected families say they believe the district’s plan unfairly targets their communities of color, ignores their concerns and fails to acknowledge institutionally racist practices that have led to the problems at those schools. This was a really challenging event to shoot. I struggled to make a good frame with the light being so inconsistent. What I really value about this profession is that it forces you to think on your feet and make a picture despite the elements. In this frame, I used Natalie's sign to light her face. I think it's a striking image with a powerful statement. I'm proud that I was able to see that opportunity rather than be frustrated with the light and call it a day. [BRONTE WITTPENN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Dorothy McPhaul, 86, looks out the front door of her store, Johnnie's Antiques and Collectibles on East Sixth Street, on May 16. Having spent most of her childhood in antique stores, McPhaul eventually inherited the store from her mother and her auntie. The story of Dorothy and her antique shop is one of the most important stories I've worked on since coming to the Statesman. Her story is just one example of how Austin's rapid changes are reshaping neighborhoods in the city's east side and impacting residents who have lived there for generations. Even though she thinks the city of Austin has forgotten her, she continues to serve her community with a big heart. She is always looking toward the future and working hard for her loved ones. Just being around Dorothy and photographing her made me think a lot about what legacy I want to leave for my family or impression I want to leave on my community. I think we could all learn something from Dorothy, I know I did. [BRONTE WITTPENN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Louise Morse, 93, sits for a portrait May 15 at Westlake United Methodist Church. Morse decided to come out to her church as a gay woman with the help of the church's pastor, Tracy Beadle, and church member Marina Sifuentes. When I first started photographing professionally I was really uncomfortable taking people's portraits. The one-on-one really intimidated me. At first, Louise really intimidated me. She is the definition of a tough as nails Texas woman and she did not want to be followed around by a stranger with a camera. I was challenged to find a way to break down the walls she had with me. It's funny looking back at the first frames I took of her to see how uncomfortable she was. I was uncomfortable, too. Now, when I look at this picture I see a breakthrough for both of us. For her, it was finding that confidence to tell her story and see a peaceful future after a hurtful past. I think you can see that in her eyes. [BRONTE WITTPENN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
A woman dressed in traditional clothing twirls her skirt Oct. 26 during the Mexic-Arte Museum's 36th Annual Viva La Vida Festival and Parade. I was on my way back to the office when I heard the sound of a marching band several blocks away. I had been covering the Texas Book Festival and another assignment before that, so I was ready to turn in my photos and call it a day. I went back and forth on whether I should investigate what the music was all about. I chose against it and started driving to the office when I saw people with faces painted like sugar skulls. Quickly, I found a place to park, jumped out and jumped right into the Dia De Los Muertos parade. I was able to make some beautiful frames, including this one, which is my favorite. I learned that when my need to picture hunt is tugging at me, it always pays off to embrace that need rather than to turn it away. [BRONTE WITTPENN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
The story of Dorothy and her antique shop is one of the most important stories I've worked on since coming to the Statesman. Her story is just one testament about how Austin's rapid changes are reshaping neighborhoods in the city's east side and impacting its residents that have lived there for generations. Even though she thinks the city of Austin has forgotten her, she continues to serve her community with such a big heart. She is always looking toward the future and working hard for her loved ones. Just being around Dorothy and photographing her has made me think a lot about what legacy I want to leave for my family or impression I want to leave on my community. I think we could all learn something from Dorothy, I know I did.
This video represents the most fun I've had putting a video piece together in awhile. I've wanted to make music videos ever since I was young and I felt I was making little me proud. It was so fun to film this piece in the warehouse of the Statesman too. The best part of this whole process was getting to know the b-boys and especially B-Boy City founder Romeo Navarro. I spent a lot of time with him and really got to know who he was and what drives him. He literally works day and night for his community by being active with the younger generations and being a firefighter for the city of Austin. Meeting people like him is no doubt the best part of my job.

Lola Gomez / Staff photographer

I found a beautiful and comforting moment even when it was so painful to deal with the mass shooting in August at a Walmart in El Paso. I was able to get to a scenic route in El Paso where no other media seemed to have gone. I captured an intimate moment Aug. 5 between a group of Loretto Academy students honoring the victims from the shooting with the lights of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in the background. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
President Donald Trump waves to his supporters as he arrives Nov. 20 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. What’s not to love about covering the visit of the U.S. president to our town? I’ve never had that honor before, covering only presidential candidates, but never the president. This assignment makes me happy to see how far I've come since leaving my homeland of Venezuela. Never in my wildest dreams would I have seen myself covering news with U.S. presidents or Formula One or NASCAR or governors or Longhorns games. I'm thankful for all this. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Valtteri Bottas (77) celebrates winning the U.S. Grand Prix auto race Nov. 3 at the Circuit of the Americas. Another first was my first time covering a Formula One, and I absolutely loved it, from the energy to how fast you need to learn all about how to cover F1. I've even had experience covering motor sports in Daytona. Can't wait for next year! [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson scores a touchdown between Texas defensive backs Caden Sterns (7) and Brandon Jones during the Tigers' victory over the Longhorns on Sept. 7 at Royal-Memorial Stadium. I fell in love with the Longhorns after covering my first major college football game. I love covering sports but this one was unique for me. [LOLA GOMEZ/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
It's difficult to like your work when it involves a tragedy for a community like the mass shooting that happened in El Paso. I’d never covered a mass shooting or a national news story before. I'm proud that the Statesman, in a bold move, ran this photo on the front page the Monday after with an editorial and a simple hard-hitting headline (“We’re better than this. Aren’t we?”). Felipe Avila puts his head in his hands as he cries Aug. 4 at the place where people brought flowers, stuffed animals, candles and posters to honor the victims of a mass shooting that occurred Aug. 3 at a Walmart in El Paso. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
During my first week working for the American-Statesman, I had to cover Gov. Greg Abbott twice. This was the second time and I had this unique opportunity because no other media was around. I made my first Statesman front page with this photo. Gov. Greg Abbott greets students June 11 after signing into law House Bill 3, a sweeping school finance package, at Parmer Lane Elementary School in Austin. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Nell Carroll / Director of Visuals

We got word that Mumford and Sons asked the Austin High Band to play with them for a song during their headlining set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which they had done in the past. Marcus Mumford also asked the band to play another song so they wouldn’t have come over for just a small appearance. The reporter and I hoofed it from Zilker Park to the school to wait for him to show up for rehearsal. I was in the back of the classroom trying to be invisible and didn’t expect to see Mumford play with the drum line. The boys were just as shocked and excited, although they did their best to hide it. [NELL CARROLL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
A fisherman casts his line under the full moon in June near Biddeford Pool in Biddeford, Maine. I was trying to find a good place to photograph the full moon while on vacation. I was so excited to find a spot where the moon was reflecting on the water. I stopped the car on the road with flashers on and hopped out. As I was shooting, I noticed the fisherman and moved to silhouette him in the light on the water. Photographers never take vacations from making good photographs. [NELL CARROLL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Kevin Parker, front man for Tame Impala, performs Oct. 11 during the Austin City Limits Music Festival. There was barely any light to photograph this show. We are allowed to photograph during the first three songs, but he performed almost in the dark. I loved how the light caught his eye and dappled the rest of his body. [NELL CARROLL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
It had been years since I visited the Hamilton Pool Preserve. It was a must do when my brother came to town. I made sure I brought my “good” camera to document the beauty of the pool. We got a good swim in, too. Hamilton Pool Preserve takes reservations every day from March 1 to October 31. They also require reservations on Saturdays and Sundays from November through February. The pool is about 25 feet deep and is a collapsed grotto. Visitors can hike all around the pool and swim when the bacteria count is not high. It is part of the Travis County Park system. [NELL CARROLL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

James Gregg / Deputy Director of Visuals

Twins Kate Cahill, left, and Claire Cahill cheer on the Texas Longhorns on Nov. 29 during a first-quarter touchdown against Texas Tech at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. I enjoy taking risks with photography, and working with a team helps. With two co-workers paying attention to the action on the field, I had the chance to focus on the Cahills, die-hard UT fans, and photograph their whole range of emotions on a touchdown drive the Longhorns desperately needed. One of my favorite images of a touchdown I’ve ever made. [JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Pedestrians pass by the Hilton Austin Downtown near the Austin Convention Center during South by Southwest 2019. I spent some time on a pedestrian bridge during the afternoon, thinking of paper dolls and hoping for the right combination of luck and timing for a surprising look at pedestrian influx into downtown during SXSW. [JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Harpist Dian Repp plays during "Bleed for the Throne," an immersive experience produced for HBO's hit series “Game of Thrones” in partnership with American Red Cross. A friend of mine is a huge “Game of Thrones” fan, and when I had the chance to photograph a South by Southwest activation for the show, I promised I would make a picture for her wall. Not what I was expecting, but I loved that all local talent was cast for the experience, and Repp’s music was captivating and beautiful. [JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]