"Photographer Knows His Steaks" Bill Whitaker Abilene Reporter – News July 30, 1993 This is the first article ever written about my work in West Texas Settling on the edge of the earth has brought two things to James Evans. First, it’s given him the ability to whip up a respectable chicken - fried steak. Second, it’s given him a major role in far West Texas - that of not only photographing for posterity the people and places of this region but making a statement of sorts about a stark much - aligned land. West Texas can always use such champions. Granted, Evans, 39, isn’t what some might conjure up as a West Texas “champion.” He’s a native of West Virginia for one thing. And he grew up in Philadelphia. Still, his photographic images of West Texas are enough for even doubters to pause. Over the years, I’ve seen precious little West Texas photography that really falls into the realm of “art.” But Evans’ exhibit at the Center of Contemporary Art crosses that line, and in a glorious yet intensely personal way. Actually, the photographer has been in Texas long enough to claim some bragging rights. He came to Texas in 1980, leaving Philadelphia, he jokes, the night after the Phillies won the World Series. I figured I’d played the town out.” I figured it wasn’t going to get any better than that.” Anyway, he “took a wrong turn” and ended up in Texas. Initially, he spent time furthering his education in Corpus Christi. Later he busied himself in photographic pursuits in Austin. But the Big Bend country exercised a mighty influence on him – and several years ago, he resolved to turn his acquaintance with that region into a full-fledged love affair. Thus he settled in Marathon, population 800. He admits wondering if first if he’d made a horrible mistakeessence of the Big Bend on film. “Giddings always knew what my intentions were. I told him I’d And at 4.25 an hour I certainly never diluted myself into thinking this was a career move. “But I did find I could make a little money that first year, and get something to eat as well.” The funny part about the Gage Hotel’s new cook: I didn’t know how to cook.” Since then, Evans has left his cook’s hat to delve deeper into a photographic odyssey. His faith must be contagious: He convinced and Austin friend, Gene Krane, editor of the Texas Historical Foundation Magazine, to also take a chance on Far West Texas. In fact, she followed the road to matrimony out to Marathon. Besides some striking nudes in the exhibit (and the model’s work in the rugged outdoors is as much a tribute to their patience as Evans’ eye.), consider Evans’ playful work with area reptiles, including inside his landlady’s home. Then there are the wonderful pictures he is done of the locals, including former Abilenian Bill Stevens, who now runs the Gage Hotel. If those people in Evans photos seem different, it’s not just because of Evans’ art. “ I think the people out here are pretty eccentric, but in a good way,” he said. “it takes a strong person to live out here, and that’s why it’s not a big city. They’re very independent, very self-sufficient.” Count James Evans among them. Likely, you’ll be seeing more of this photographer’s work – which is good. Although Evans says he can make a fair chicken fried steak nowadays, he’s not sure he could luck into another cooking job from Bill and Laurie Stevens at the Gage. “ I think they want to keep me out of the kitchen”, he said.