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An Evening With "Texas Bill" Leissner

  • Motion Media Arts Center 2200 Tillery Street Austin, TX, 78723 United States (map)

Join MMAC for an evening with the infamous Texas Bill a.k.a. Bill Leissner!  Leissner will take us on a journey— his journey, from accidentally inventing the first "Selfie" to becoming a world-famous photographer! 

~ Free & open to the public ~

Saturday, March 31st 2018 from 6pm – 9pm
2200 Tillery St, Austin TX 78723

Ever since the Oxford Dictionaries proclaimed “selfie” the Word of the Year in 2013, numerous theories have been offered identifying the party guilty of inflicting the in-my-face-in-your-face image obsession on 21st-century global culture. Now comes Bill Leissner, a photographer currently based in Portland, Oregon and Internetting as Texas Bill, testifying to his own pioneering self-image making in the big fat state of Texas, circa 1980s.

After moving to Austin in the mid-’80s, Leissner “got really psyched up about the idea,” eventually inserting himself into the frame of some 3,000 photographs. The series is titled bill & _____. “One thing that I found interesting about these shots was that by becoming a participant rather than an observer, people tended to really let down their guard and become less inhibited.”

The Ramones, Willie Nelson, Carol Channing, Texas governor Ann Richards, legendary free-speech defender and McCarthyism survivor John Henry Faulk, and Terry Galloway, Esther’s Follies star and author of the memoir, MEAN Little deaf Queer, all submitted to Texas Bill’s often topsy-turvy selfies.

— via Glasstire


I bought my first SLR in about 1980 and began taking classes with Mark Goodman in the UT art department. At first, instead of my candid photos I brought pictures of porches and shadows and such to classes, which Mark informed me looked like “wallpaper.” I showed him some of my “liveshots” and Mark planted the idea that this work actually qualified as art. At that point, Mark Goodman invented me as a photographer. In the course of the 80’s I accumulated an archive of around 3,500 rolls of film, which translates into about 100,000 images. I started out shooting bands and gravitated from there towards other staged performance (theater, dance, improvisation), politics, portraits, street scenes, animals, parties, conventions, and anything or anyone else that caught my eye. I also began my "bill & ___?___" project, which led my friends to characterize me as the inventor of the “selfie." It includes thousands of self-portraits taken at arm’s length with luminaries, friends, animals, inanimate objects, etc.

I had the opportunity to photograph numerous Austin cultural and political icons and venues. I shot 300 rolls of Ann Richards’ campaign, from start to finish. Lots of people, lots of places. Lots of memories of a thrilling time in my life and in Austin history.

Earlier Event: March 19
Open House
Later Event: May 3