When I was only eighteen years old, my dad slid a June 1988 copy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine across the table to me and said, “When you get some pictures in this magazine you’ve really done something.” I was just out of high school but already I’d shown a love for photography.
Just about a year prior, my older brother, William, gave me an old Vivitar camera that our older sister had given to him. That old camera was used for about a year until, out of nowhere, it stopped working. The repair shops confirmed that the relic was too old to fix. I was crushed. Loving photography and not wanting to ask for any help from my parents, I approached my boss. My part-time job was reading water meters for a rural water system for $75 a month. There were about sixty meters to read and maintain so that the customers were appropriately billed for their water usage.
“Let me ask you a question, Mr. Lackey,” I said.
“ Do you trust me?”
“Sure,” he replied. “You’re a good kid and you do a good job.”
“Well…” I continued, “you know how much I like photography and my camera broke. Could you give me a year’s advance pay to buy some more gear?” He agreed. With $900 in my pocket I bought a Minolta X-7a camera and a few lenses. This marked the beginning of my photography career.
In those early days and with my dad’s encouragement, I always aspired to be a magazine photographer. At first, I’d package slides and send them off to magazines. We lived about five miles from town and those slides were rejected so fast they almost beat me back home. But my parents kept encouraging me.
I always aspired to be a magazine photographer.
Photographing everything possible near my rural Fannin County, Texas, home, I honed my craft 24 frames at a time. At 19, I had my first article and photos in a magazine. At 20, I had my first cover. Seeing my pictures in print and getting paid for them was (and still is) exhilarating.
For the next five years, I continued my education at Grayson County College and East Texas State University and earned a degree in Agriculture Education. While in college, I started dating my wife, Kristy, and continued to photograph and submit images to magazines. Our courtship was financed by taking pictures of bull riders on a Sunday and then returning the next Sunday to the bucking arena and selling the cowboys prints of them riding.
In 1993, we moved from Dodd City to Childress, TX. With a new wife in tow, we spent the weekends traveling the area and shooting pictures. Through my twenties, I continued to publish images and articles, wrote a book or two, and honed my craft creatively and from a business standpoint. In 1999, even though still teaching agriculture science at Childress High School, photography and writing became my main source of income.
Nearly every photo and every word printed or spoken have been about a subject that’s dear to my heart… rural Texas.
Nearly thirty years after picking up a camera for the first time, I can say that I am truly blessed. In the ensuing years, I had around 450 magazine covers, thousands of images in print, written six books, produced some television, have had perhaps 500,000 words published in magazines, and hundreds of speaking engagements. Nearly every photo and every word printed or spoken have been about a subject that’s dear to my heart… rural Texas.
I’ve worked with some of the biggest celebrities in pop culture but it’s regular people living remarkable lives in rural Texas that are most fascinating. It’s the wildlife and the agriculture of our state that inspires me and it’s seeing my kids growing up and experiencing a rural culture in much the same way I did that motivates me to pick up a camera again and again.
Through my journey I’ve never strayed from my singular pursuit of documenting rural Texas. I’ve never shot weddings, senior portraits, or baby pictures to fill in the gaps when the work got slow. Since those early days of shooting pictures of cows on my family’s northeast Texas ranch, I still like to be out in the pasture with cattle on a warm summer day.
It’s hard to express in words, but my gratitude for getting to take pictures of people and places on my terms for so long is palpable. I am blessed by the legions of editors for whom I’ve worked and for the experiences I’ve had since those first words of encouragement from my dad.