About Ave

Ave Bonar, Texas photographer, Austin

I’d like to tell you a little bit about my history in photography. I started my photo career back in the days of film. My first teacher and mentor was my then-husband — the late, great painter and photographer, Jimmy Jalapeeno — who taught me to “look at the light.” He was generous with his Leicas and his darkroom, which is where I found my photo legs. Below is a photograph I made of him in his studio on Ninth and a Half Street in Austin. He’s cleaning his fingernails with a switchblade I had brought to him from El Paso.

Jimmy Jalapeeno, aka Albert J. Bonar, in his studio, mid 70s

Jimmy’s photography teacher at UT Austin, former Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee, soon became my teacher too, although I never studied with him formally. But he was always available for a portfolio review and often sent magazine assignments my way. Below is a view camera portrait I made of him in his darkroom on West Avenue.

Russell Lee, American photographer, Farm Security Administraton

In the beginning, I was primarily a black and white shooter and in addition to Russell Lee, revered such masters as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Erich Salomon, Elliott Erwitt, and Diane Arbus. After a year of photographing everything I saw and studying all the photography books in the library, I got a job as chief photographer for the Daily Democrat newspaper in Davis, California. There I experimented freely and always looked for the humor in a situation. I made the photograph below for a story about a daycare center. I think a good title for it now would be “Which One Were You?”

Children in Day Care

When I returned to Austin from California, the gentle Russell Lee had retired from teaching, and another legend had been hired to replace him — Garry Winogrand. Although I resisted Winogrand’s influence at first (he was the polar opposite of Russ Lee), I have to credit this brash New Yorker with expanding my vision. He introduced me to the idea of using a wide-angle lens for everyday photography, and it wasn’t long before my 24mm lens became my “normal” lens. Below is my 1979 photograph of Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, and Russell Lee.

American photographers, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Russell Lee

I got my degree in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin. From the beginning, I freelanced. Magazines were plentiful, and living in Austin was easy. I worked for many publications — Texas Monthly, Texas Observer, Austin Sun, Third Coast, Texas Homes, American Preservation, and Parade magazine, to name a few. I also photographed events, many of them political. It was in these circles where I became acquainted with people like Ann Richards, Liz Carpenter, and Jim Hightower, who later became Texas Agricultural Commissioner. I photographed Hightower in front of Central Feed and Seed on South Congress in Austin for Mother Jones magazine. That was in 1982. Güero’s Taco Bar now occupies that building.

Jim Hightower Candidate for Texas Ag Commissioner in front of Cenral Seed and Feed, later Guero's Taco Bar

In 1990, I had the opportunity to photograph Ann Richards’ first campaign for governor, a project that allowed me to travel with the candidate for the better part of nine months. After she was elected, my book With Ann: A Journey Across Texas with a Candidate for Governor was published.

Cover of "With Ann: A Journey Across Texas with a Candidate for Governor," Ave Bonar's photo book of Ann Richards's 1990 race for governor

My work with Ann the candidate led to my work with Emmy award winning actress Holland Taylor, who wrote, produced, and starred in her one-woman play about Ann Richards, called “Ann.” It launched in May of 2010 at The Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston and then traveled to San Antonio, Austin, Chicago, Washington, DC., and finally to the Lincoln Center on Broadway in New York.

Holland Taylor, Ann Richards, Broadway play

When I met radio man Larry Monroe in 2009, I had no idea that he would introduce me to my newest passion — 3-D photography— an old technology, yet a new way for me to “look at the light.” Below is our collaborative photograph of the moon, in which Austin’s famous violet crown is visible. A 3-D viewer is the ideal way to see this image, but it is possible to “free-view” it. First, relax. Then diffuse your eyes ever so slightly and gaze beyond the screen. When you see the three images, concentrate on the middle image to see the three-dimensional effect. Enjoy the view!

3D photo, violet crown

Publishing Ever since I helped Danny Schweers with the first Book of Days calendar in 1976, I’ve enjoyed the world of publishing. Below are some of the other publishing projects with which I have been involved.


Coming of Age In 2010 I published Coming of Age: A Book of Portraits, a collection of women’s portraits that I made over a five-year period. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir graces the cover.

Ave Bonar, portrait photography, Coming of Age, Dana DeBeauvoir

Post That Card Many of my photographs have been published as postcards, including the image below.

Grocery carts

Otavalo: Portrait of a Town is a collection of 40 photographs that I made in the small Ecuadoran town of Otavalo, a town famous for its textiles. Master bookbinder James Tapley bound the original prints into three books, one of which is in the photography collection at the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin. A private collector owns a second book. Below is a photograph from the collection of bound prints. The seamstress is a Quichua Indian. The portfolio Special Projects: Otavalo has not yet been posted.

Seamstress, Otavalo, Ecuador, Quichua Indian

Paradise My exhibit at the McAllen International Museum was the culmination of a three-year project originally commissioned by the Texas Historical Foundation for a book called Contemporary Texas: A Photographic Portrait (Texas Monthly Press, 1986). I photographed life in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, between Rio Grande City and Brownsville. The portfolio Special Project: Paradise has not yet been posted.

McAllen, Texas, Lower Rio Grande Valley, McAllen, Paradise Motel

Maps I created my first map after a driving trip from Austin to Seattle. I had made photographs all the way there and all the way back. When I was subsequently invited to be in a map exhibit, I pinned contact prints of my trip photos to a large, beautiful geological survey map, detailing the route I had taken. I named it the Photological Travel Map of the Western United States (collected by Jeri Kunz). Since then, I’ve created four other maps, including The Bosque County History Map, which was commissioned in 2001 by First Security State Bank in Cranfills Gap, Texas. For this map, I affixed small photos of every historical site in Bosque County, which is in North Central Texas. The map hangs in the bank’s lobby, along with a collection of individual black and white photographs I made of historical Norwegian structures in the area. Below is a replica of the map on which I handwrote information about the historical sites in the photographs. Posters of this map are available at the Bosque County Collection in Meridian. The portfolio Special Projects: Maps has not yet been posted.

Bosque County, historical sites, Norwegian settlements

Portraits I’ve always been a “people” photographer, whether photographing them in their own environments or on location in a portable studio. Rick Williams taught me the basics of studio portrait lighting. I still use my old Novatron flash system, usually with just one umbrella and a soft box.

black and white portrait of middle-age woman

Garden Art Although people have been the mainstay of my photographic subjects, I can’t resist photographing the beautiful vegetables that grow in my garden. It seems that both gardening and photography are in my genes. The photographs in this portfolio live at the Chez Zee Bistro in Austin. Radio man Larry Monroe, who had a gift for words, named this photograph “Shards of Chard.”

Bright Lights, Swiss chard

Video, An Afterthought The idea of my doing video never occurred to me until the night of Phil Music’s Last Stand, when I used my Canon SLR with video to record history in the making . . . after 29 years on the radio at KUT, Larry Monroe (Phil Music’s popular stand-in host) broadcast his farewell Phil Music program. The first six minutes of that show are posted on this website. As of this writing, I have no plans to get serious about moving pictures, but we’ll see. I was inspired in the 60s by Andy Warhol’s documentary style, a good example of which can be seen in Chelsea Girls . . . Warhol’s camera rolled as real life rolled by. I guess that would be reel life. In the screen-shot below, LM glances at the clock as Ken Nordine’s What Time Is It? broadcasts over the air waves. Click on the image to link to the six-minute Phil Music video.

Larry Monroe on Phil Music at KUT