The Death and Rebirth of Pecos Jane - Texas Monthly
Who wouldn't want to work on a story that is definitely a mystery, and quite possibly, a murder mystery?
One of the (many) great things about working for Texas Monthly is that they're sometimes apt to assign stories with a fairly broad brief. The editors provide a sense of the story that needs to be told, then allow their photographers to interpret that story in their own way. Which is to say, they trust the people they hire.
I'm always down for a road-trip (this too is something the TM editors are aware of). Texas extends six hours of driving in any direction from Austin; there's a lot of land to cover. But give me a good audiobook and I'm happy to cover it.
Not that I'll be in any great hurry to return to Pecos again any time soon. From Austin, you head around five hours west, and just as you're about to enter the glories of West Texas, you make a sharp right and head off into the middle of nowhere. When you get there, it's named Pecos, and it's an oil and gas town and little else beside. The surrounding area is arid and bleak, and the town is largely populated by roughnecks, hired hands living in spartan temporary housing until the next big gig rolls in.
The story itself is about a young girl who drowned in a hotel swimming pool back in 1966 and was never identified. It's a story of detective work and science.
The detective work was pursued by Pecos Police Chief Lisa Tarango, a woman working a difficult job in a tough, decidedly masculine town. As part of the project I photographed Chief Tarango, and she could not have been kinder, more generous with her time, and with sharing her local knowledge. This too is one of the great pleasures of this kind of assignment - meeting people whose life experience is so different from your own. Often, you end up finding surprising commonalities that you share. And then of course, you also get to marvel at just how different the lives of others are to your own.
The full Pecos Jane story can be found in the August 2021 issue of Texas Monthly.
Story by Michael Hardy.
Creative Director: Emily Kimbro
Art Director: Victoria Millner
Photo Editor: Claire Hogan