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F. Carter Smith Portfolio

Astros Provide Joy for Devastated City

When the Houston Astros finally earned their first World Series title, a collective city of bruised spirits were lifted up along with the Commissioner's Trophy. #HoustonStrong was the theme as the nation's 4th largest city continues its recovery from Hurricane Harvey which left thousands homeless from perhaps the worst flood in American history. That 25 men and their coaching staff could do so much while playing a "kid's game" is testament to the power of sports. Even for the casual fans, and especially the new fans, experiencing the glory of a baseball championship reverberated through our city and provided a welcome respite from the work at hand. Everyone has their own Harvey story, and now we all have our own Astros narrative. For me, it began as a seven-year-old taken to old Colt Stadium as part of the "Knothole Gang" when tickets were 50 cents apiece. My dad brought me to the Harris County Domed Stadium, its official name, to see Mickey Mantle hit the first Dome Dinger in 1965. A decade later, my photography career allowed me to work in the Astrodome for perhaps a thousand events until the downtown palace, Enron Field" opened 17 years ago. The Dome housed thousands of New Orleans evacuees after Hurricane Katrina. I returned once more for its 50th birthday party.

These new Astros accomplished what no other baseball team could. Years of sports heartbreak, aside from the Rockets two tiles in the mid-90's, were finally absolved when George Springer and company won it all last week. An estimated 20,000 fans came to Minute Maid Park to watch the Astros beat the Dodgers. Bedlam ensued. Perhaps a million folks attended the Mayor's World Series Parade last Friday (or tried to get there through traffic.) There is still much work to be done in our recovery efforts. We can now share the joy of winning with the world.  --30--


"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!