Environment Is Everything

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It was a baseball injury that led Casey Dunn to photography. The Austin native was in high school, and to fill the time formerly filled by baseball before his injury sidelined him, he started working with the yearbook. From yearbook photos he moved into shooting pictures of his friends skateboarding and of bands at such hallowed Austin venues as Liberty Lunch—Dunn said he got in two good years of shows there before the well-loved music venue was torn down. But that was enough time for him to know that photography would be more than just a passing interest.

Dunn, an architectural photographer whose work has been in magazines from Architectural Digest and the New York Times to Texas Monthly and Austin Monthly Home, set up shop in Austin several years ago and hasn’t looked back. His clients include notable names in architecture, like Lake Flato, as well as Austin presences like the Livestrong Foundation and the University of Texas at Austin.

He was almost immediately drawn to architecture as a subject.

“My projects at (Austin Community College) always had an emphasis on form and dimension, and I didn’t really like shooting people. I was into the problem-solving aspect of photography. I liked lighting, composing—things that took a long time. So shooting people, I thought it was a pain,” Dunn said with a laugh. “People move around, get annoyed, and you have to entertain them while you’re working.”

His latest project, Public School, is a creative collaboration. It started when Dunn began searching for a partner to share his work space, a warehouse in East Austin. He and another photographer began filling up the space with other creative professionals. The group gave itself the name “Public School” after they brought in an old library school desk from the state surplus store.

“This big table acted as this central area for us to come around and collaborate,” Dunn said. “It was what took everyone away from facing the walls and their computers and brought us together.”

Public School has since moved to a new space, still on the East side, but now is acting less as a cooperative and more as a collaborative as it takes on clients.

Dunn sees things in buildings and spaces that many don’t. Take, for instance, one building he says he’s admired for a long time. It’s on the East side and now houses the Texas Society of Architects. It’s a traditional red brick building in a style that’s fast disappearing in Austin.

“Austin doesn’t have that many traditional red brick buildings,” he said. “Austin doesn’t value the warehouses we have, (and) we only have a few of them. You hear about warehouses that are torn down, and it rubs me the wrong way. [The TSA building] has been repurposed. I drive by it every day, and I’m always a little jealous. I want to own it.”

That’s not to say Dunn isn’t a fan of the changes and the new buildings springing up in the city. He admits it’s a touchy subject, but when it comes to growth, he’s firmly in the “pro” camp, especially when that growth takes shape in a responsible way.

In particular, he’s excited about the potential of the Waller Creek project, especially if it can bring both sides of the downtown I-35 corridor together in an appealing and well-used format.

“Everyone points to the High Line in New York [City] and what an amazing project that is. People really utilize it,” he said.

Photography by Casey Dunn

Captions:

Dunn helped launch Public School, a high school, a collaboration of creative professionals in East Austin.

Dexter the Boston Terrier, Cody Haltom’s business partner and Public School resident. Dunn’s style is modern and clean, but he has an appreciation for vintage styles.

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