"Taxi Rider" turns 40
Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 1:30AM
F. Carter Smith

In the summer of 1977, having moved back to Houston to pursue my career in photojournalism, I soon needed a more dependable vehicle. My 1955 Buick Roadmaster was beginning to rust. Plus it was difficult to park due to its whale-like size. A fellow journalist started leasing a small fleet of Yellow Cabs, and soon I had a new Checker Cab to call my 24/7 mobile office. 

With my Nikon F 35mm camera resting beside me in the front seat, I watched the humanity that passed through my back seat. Chatting with each customer was easy for me, then I could turn around, shoot a single candid frame and then explain what I was doing. Only once did I come across an upset subject. I quickly learned to seek permission at night as I needed to use flash.

Pagers* were the cutting-edge technology of the day. An editor could reach out whenever there was breaking news and I would head that way. If I had a fare, I would drive faster! Taxi Zone parking came in quite handy. There was no Google Maps, of course, but there was the Key Map**. Knowledge of the city and its best routes was essential. So, I really had two concurrent vocations. As a taxi driver, I drove constantly to earn my daily rental of about $100, not including gasoline. I enjoyed the late night pancakes with other drivers at The House of Pies or The Dot Coffee Shop, where we mainlined coffee waiting for the bars to close.

These are a few shots from this series of photographs I made called "Taxi Rider" which was published in Houston City Magazine 40 years ago.

 

Glossary:

**Pager (aka beeper) is a wireless device that receives and displays messages developed in the 1950s and 1960s, and became widely used by the 1980s.

*Key Map is a unique and easy to use grid system of Houston and Harris County maps. There is a genuine affection that many people have for holding and actually reading maps rather than staring at a device's screen.

 

Article originally appeared on F. Carter Smith in a Series of Tubes (http://www.fcartersmith.com/).
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