Casey Chapman-Ross is a mom, a wife and a skilled photographer bringing life to the most important political races in Texas. Photography comes naturally to this Austin local who has been shooting for over 20 years and has a Fine Arts Degree in Studio Art from the University of Texas in Austin. Her mother, Barbara Chapman, had a 20 year career working alongside Governor Ann Richards which should have sparked her political curiosity, but we all know that in our teens, we tend to run from our parents passions.
LY: Your parents were both politically active while you were growing up. Is that where you caught the political bug?
CCR: No, I pretty much wanted nothing to do with politics. (laughing) Growing up, my parents were huge readers, very politically involved and I didn’t really want to do either one. I liked sports and art, my own things.
LY: So Celia Israel’s campaign was the first campaign you were involved with?
CCR: Almost, my uncle ran for judge and I block walked with him when I was a teenager. Block walking is long and hard. It’s hot. It takes a determined candidate to do that. After a few blocks, it sounds really appealing to go get a cold drink somewhere! I was with both Andy Brown and Celia for over four hours straight and I am still surprised by how committed they both were on crossing off every single home! And here I thought we were going to go out for about an hour, but we were in the same car so I wasn’t going anywhere! (laughing)
LY: We love the iconic photo of Celia Israel post election. How did that come about?
CCR: My mom worked for Governor Ann Richards so my mom and Celia were colleagues.I knew there would be some level of familiarly to help get my foot in the door when Celia announced. I also knew that I may be able to help by documenting her race and helping spread awareness, as it was a special election. So when she announced her candidacy, I knew that I would help. I started with block walking to gain momentum. That led to house parties and finally the night of her special election. The images I captured along the way got a lot of attention, particularly the one of her holding up the “horns.” I was about to leave the special election party after capturing thousands of images and realized I never got a photo of Celia and her partner, Celinda. I mean here I am covering this historic evening and I still haven’t captured them together. So as I was leaving, I asked this beautiful woman standing next to me, “Where is Celinda?” and she exclaimed, “I am Celinda!” (laughing). So I said, “Get down there and give her a hug!” She did and you can tell it was such a genuine moment as the first time they had seen each other knowing that she had won.
LY: You shared that like many of us, you set some goals for 2014. Unlike the rest of us, you have completed almost all of them. Overachiever!
CCR: I know! I wanted to see one of my photographs get published and the Dallas Voice printed my photo of Celia and Celinda embracing. I wanted to get a photo of Wendy Davis and that happened. My ultimate goal would be to document the path to “Turn Texas Blue” and produce a piece on the daily struggles of these amazing races.
LY: We are big fans of Louie Minor and have enjoyed watching his race for US Congress, District 31. It is a traditionally Republican district and Louie’s race is historic as he is an openly gay, Latino, combat veteran. He is the trifecta!
CCR: Yes. And it is a great year for women with Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte. There are just SO many races which are incredibly exciting this year! If I didn’t have a family, I would be at an event every day, twice a day! And these elections aren’t until November!
LY: So you have now found a way to take your parents momentum in politics and your passion in the arts and bring them together to make it your own.
CCR: I held every position in photography growing up. I was yearbook photographer. Newspaper photographer. I spent at least four hours a day taking pictures or classes in photography. At UT, I studied Art and focused on print making as the photo classes were so competitive. After school and a stint in Real Estate, I have really enjoyed returning to my passion of photography and certainly couldn’t have predicted that it would have been in politics. It now represents what I needed, a community to get involved in. Friends. I like being there with people I identify with and know that I am helping.
LY: A picture of a bluebonnet may not change the world, but a picture of Wendy Davis might?
CCR: Maybe. As a woman, I know I want to show these female candidates in their most powerful, beautiful, flattering light. That is just awesome. I like working alongside and encouraging people I identify with knowing that I am helping in some way, like my parents must have as well and continue to still. Now I get it.