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F. Carter Smith Portfolio

"Taxi Rider" turns 40

In the summer of 1977, having moved back to Houston to pursue my career in photojournalism, I soon needed a more dependable vehicle. My 1955 Buick Roadmaster was beginning to rust. Plus it was difficult to park due to its whale-like size. A fellow journalist started leasing a small fleet of Yellow Cabs, and soon I had a new Checker Cab to call my 24/7 mobile office. 

With my Nikon F 35mm camera resting beside me in the front seat, I watched the humanity that passed through my back seat. Chatting with each customer was easy for me, then I could turn around, shoot a single candid frame and then explain what I was doing. Only once did I come across an upset subject. I quickly learned to seek permission at night as I needed to use flash.

Pagers* were the cutting-edge technology of the day. An editor could reach out whenever there was breaking news and I would head that way. If I had a fare, I would drive faster! Taxi Zone parking came in quite handy. There was no Google Maps, of course, but there was the Key Map**. Knowledge of the city and its best routes was essential. So, I really had two concurrent vocations. As a taxi driver, I drove constantly to earn my daily rental of about $100, not including gasoline. I enjoyed the late night pancakes with other drivers at The House of Pies or The Dot Coffee Shop, where we mainlined coffee waiting for the bars to close.

These are a few shots from this series of photographs I made called "Taxi Rider" which was published in Houston City Magazine 40 years ago.



**Pager (aka beeper) is a wireless device that receives and displays messages developed in the 1950s and 1960s, and became widely used by the 1980s.

*Key Map is a unique and easy to use grid system of Houston and Harris County maps. There is a genuine affection that many people have for holding and actually reading maps rather than staring at a device's screen.



Respect for Lady Gaga


After spending the week in Houston to perform at halftime of Super Bowl LI, Lady Gaga left her Air BNB mansion in a new Lambo, rolled down her window to blow kisses and exclaim "I Love You, Houston!" to the moms and kids gathered outside the gates who shared their neighborhood. Informed by her security detail that I was wasting my time and wouldn't get any photos, but I persisted, waiting mostly alone for 8 hours until her entourage departed near dark. And of course, i was both ready and fortunate to get exclusive images to share with the world. Gaga is very cool! 


Japan is Jamazing!

After spending 17 days overseas, I have a new appreciation and admiration for the mystical, magical, quirky culture and technological precision of daily life. The population was unabashedly friendly and helpful, and my experience was life-changing. Walking through the Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo, I found this flower growing from a centuries-old foundation wall. Thank you, Japan.


These Astros Are A Lot of Fun!

When they swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last week, our home team took over first place in the American League West division.These kids are really enjoying themselves, and so are the fans. The stadium has not been this loud since their only World Series appearance ten years ago (when we were in the National League .. still a sore subject). The young players could soon become household names as there is a lot of talent. Good luck Club Astros!




The Sounds of Houston Shout Out

Sugar Hill Recording studios producer, president and chief executive Dan Workman opened the doors to the public Saturday to celebrate 74 years of music recording history made by artists from the Big Bopper to Beyonce. Photo c-2015 F. Carter Smith

For more photos, see my web gallery: Sugar Hill Open House