“Rural Towns in Texas” by Joe Arbona

This photograph was taken by my dad in the 1950s.   Starting as a project for an advanced photography class at Rice University, these photographs are of small towns in Texas, primarily south of San Antonio and east of Del Rio. I travel extensively in my work and  drive through many rural communities. When possible, I take a few moments to look around for interesting subjects that communicate small town America.

The posts are sorted by date, meaning the most recent photographs are on top.

Near Beeville.

Abandoned gas station south of Goliad.

Near Edinburg, Tx.

(iPhone) Near Edinburg, Texas. This is a 1960s style motor lodge where you literally drive up to your room and park.  The rooms are spacious and the prices, by modern standards, are very reasonable — $72.00 a night. I love these old hotels because they have a “throw back” vibe that’s missing in the box hotels that have popped up everywhere.

Motel El Campo, Tx.

El Campo.Tx.  Another old style motel.

Near La Grange, Tx.

Near La Grange, Tx.


Bellville, Tx.

Near Bellville.

Near Bellville, Tx.

Photo of Sabinal, Tx.

Sabinal, Tx. I took this photo just after 12 noon. The only sign of inhabitants are the tire tracks.

Near Hondo, Tx.

Outside Hondo, Tx. Spring time in the hill country is colorful and bright.

Photo of farmland

Bishop, Tx. A large part of south Texas is agricultural. But like most farming states many  small family farms in Texas  have been bought out.  

Photo of road leaving town

Daisetta, Tx. Once you drive over the tracks you’re suddenly in the woods, no suburbs.

Photo of old section of Bellville, Tx.

Bellville, Tx.

House with plants on roof near Crystal Beach, Tx.

Crystal Beach, Tx.

Photo of old building being remodeled.

Daisetta, Tx. Nice to see old structures being rehabbed instead destroyed.

Photo of post office, Damon, Tx/

Damon, Tx.

Photo of Dalia's Cafe new Beeville, Tx.

Skidmore, Tx. It’s common in small towns to see several businesses operating out of one structure.

AbandonedPhoto of BBQ Rest, near Beeville, Tx.

Near Beeville, Tx. Signs of a failed business.

Abandoned structure. Labadieville, La. Labadieville, La.

Photographing Strangers


New OrleansWhen I chose to try my hand at street photography, I knew there would be risks — it  involved shooting candid photos of strangers. Would I approve of someone putting a camera in my face and snapping a photo without permission? I wasn’t sure, it depended on how the photographer approached me and acted. Would the people I photograph feel the same way?  I had to reconcile these two issues and that would take time.

At first I used a 200mm lens so I could stand away from the subject and not be seen. Or, if I had to run, at least I’d have a head start. This actually worked, and I posted several photographs on the blog of these early shoots . But in the long run I knew I’d have to get closer.

As time passed, however, I  discovered that  I had to commit to becoming a street photographer. If that is what I wanted to do I had to  learn to photograph people head on — no more shots of people sitting on a beach looking away. No more backs!

I decided on a “tough love” approach. For several weeks I shot nothing but candid photos, straight on, in-your-face shots. I did not concern myself with composition. This would come later. I can honestly say that after the initial photos I felt empowered and on my way to conquering the fear that had held me back.  As somebody said, “There is an exciting life outside your comfort zone.”  Below are a few of the first photos.

bikers headshotpracticeweb resting4x6_pp


(The following photographs are split into sections:  Street Portraits where the subject has agreed to being photographed and Caught Moments in which people are unaware of being photographed.)

Street Portraits …


Galveston, Tx. This is Sam. He is retired and loves feeding seagulls along the Galveston seawall. He feeds them out-of-date bread that he buys from a local bakery.  He told me the gulls are his family and he can actually distinguish one from another.

Buchanan was getting in his daily walk around downtown Baytown, Texas.

Baytown, Tx. Buchanan was getting in his daily walk around town. Plans to open a soul food restaurant soon.

new road, la

New Roads, La. I had stopped at the outskirts of New Road to photograph the town’s welcome sign. As I looked for an angle to take my photo this man drove up and introduced himself; he was a volunteer for the town and was responsible for keeping the grass and weeds around the welcome sign trimmed. He apologized that they were not trimmed and offered to ‘tidy them up’ if I would wait while he retrieved a weed-eater from his garage. If I was taking a picture of the sign, he said, he wanted it to look just right. I told him I had to be on my way, but asked if I could take his photograph instead. He said, “sure.”

jamaican man, jamaica, white linen nights

Houston, Tx. I met Ronnie at White Linen Nights at the Heights. He encouraged me to visit his home town of Kingston, Jamaica, saying I would love the music and the people, especially the people.


Caught Moments …


Frightened girl.

Houston, Tx.

Badass dude in SF.

San Francisco. I didn’t notice the scowl until I saw the photo on the computer.


San Francisco. When I saw this person she was sitting in an alley and having coffee and a cigarette with her boyfriend. They were playing around and kidding each other. When I starting taking photos her friend wanted to be in the shots and would lean over beside her. Finally, as I was about to leave, I got the photo of her and a kiss.

Mission District, San Francisco

San Francisco. Drama.

More drama.

More drama.

Castro District. San Francisco.

San Francisco. The girls were sleeping when I walked up, but they started laughing when they awoke and saw me in front of them with a camera. I wanted the sleeping photo, but am happy I got this one. And, who eats a carton of strawberries for breakfast?

White Linen Night in the Heights, Houston— 2015

JamaicaaWEB“White Linen Night in the Heights started in 2006 at the suggestion of New Orleans native and then Hurricane Katrina transplant Chris Thayer and his wife, Kay, who had opened a boutique on 19th Street when they were displaced by the storm. The event was patterned after a similar event in the French Quarter Arts district in New Orleans where residents came out dressed in their finest linen to see local art. The Thayers and the Heights First Saturday group organized the event as a way to promote interest and traffic to 19th Street so local businesses could thrive in the hot Houston summer. The event has now grown to become a neighborhood wide event that is known throughout Greater Houston. White Linen Night in the Heights is open to the general public with no admission fee.”

White linen is everywhere ...

White linen is everywhere …


The banana couple and friends.

The banana couple and friends.









Nothing better to cool off with on a warm night than watermelon. Just ask a kid.

Nothing better to cool off with on a warm night than watermelon. Just ask a kid.



Indian woman decorating a woman's hand and arm.

Indian woman decorating a woman’s hand and arm.

Mexican band --- they are great!

Mexican band — they are great!





Laid back rhythm section ...

Laid back rhythm section …