In Texas, fireworks stands are only open a few times a year – December 20 through January 1, and June 24 through the July 4 holiday. Austin-based photographer Matthew Johnson recently drove by one of these open stands, pulled over and photographed it. At first his idea was to shoot the stands as objects, but he soon became interested in the people that run the stands as well. His “Fireworks Stands” involved a few trips out of central Texas but the majority of the images were made in small towns about 50 miles or so outside of Austin.
Johnson says a lot of the people he met work long days, and hard days; in many cases this is the only job they have all year. The stands cannot be left unattended, so employees sleep in trailers or tents next to the stands despite temperatures that sometimes reach over 100 degrees. Many times he was asked to buy fireworks, which he did, as a thank you for the subject’s participation. One of Johnson’s favorite memories was meeting stand owners near the town of Round Rock— a couple who’d been married over 20 years. “They were so nice and friendly and very proud of how successful their stand was,” Johnson explains. “When they told me how many dollars worth of fireworks they would sell that week, I told them I couldn’t believe it, but they just smiled and told me to stop back on the 4th of July. I went back, and the parking lot was full. People were carrying off huge cardboard boxes full of fireworks. Unbelievable!
Johnson moved to Austin almost ten years ago, after Hurricane Wilma hit his home in Key West, Florida where he ran a charter fishing boat. Fishing is a passion for Johnson, but he’s always had an interest in photography. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Johnson landed a staff job as the photographer for the Tampa Bay Rays. Though he’s only been working in the editorial and commercial world of photography for one year, he’s landed clients like AFAR, Outside, Boat, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Mazda.
To our readers in the US: Happy 4th of July!
Related: Fourth of July: A Fireworks How-To