By VAL OLIVAS, Four Points News
Photo Texas Photography is officially moving headquarters to River Place this week as founder Cindy Gallien has her eye toward expanding into more Texas markets.
River Place resident Gallien will have a much shorter commute to work in the days ahead when Photo Texas offices move from Anderson Mill to 6500 River Place Blvd. on Dec. 11.
“We will have an (indoor) studio and have outdoor access to beautiful spots. Our building sits on the edge of the preserve so we have incredible views and scenery,” Gallien said.
With 35 employees—and additional contractors–Photo Texas covers the Austin, Houston, Beaumont, College Station and San Angelo areas. It offers photography services for school portraits, senior portraits, school sports and activities, and youth league action. Photo Texas also provides event photography and photo booth rental.
Photo Texas was awarded the contract for Leander ISDs photography needs. As part of this contract, a generous portion of money paid by families for school photos goes back to the schools, yielding fundraiser monies.
Austin is home to Photo Texas’s first studio location and a second studio is under construction in Beaumont, Tex.—Gallien’s hometown. She hopes to expand her photography business to support continued growth in Houston, Beaumont and College Station and is also looking to offer services throughout Texas.
Gallien began her career as a teacher in the Beaumont ISD in the 1970s. She was being groomed to become principal, but was unsettled with the overall position the district placed on racial integration.
“In 1979, BISD refused to integrate the children in their schools and spent more money on court costs than the kids,” states Gallien. “With tears streaming, I realized I didn’t want to be in this district. I didn’t believe in what they were doing.” She was 23 years old at the time.
Gallien also coached middle school basketball and boys’ little league baseball. While coaching baseball, she spoke with the “picture man” and family friend Roger Wynn—father of former Austin mayor Will Wynn. Gallien shared with Wynn her desire to leave education, but was uncertain of what change to make. Wynn sparked Gallien’s interest in considering a sales job with the photography company for which he contracted.
As the first person in her family to earn a master’s degree, Gallien—and her parents—questioned her decision to leave a promising career in education to pursue a job she didn’t even understand. The photography job initially had no contract, no health insurance, no retirement, and was one in which she had no experience; however, she was under the wing of Wynn who would show her the ropes.
After years working alongside Wynn in the business, Gallien saw the coming of the digital age in the mid-90s and knew advancement in the industry had to take place. She approached the president of the company with ideas and a resolution of embracing the digital change, but her ideas were rejected.
In 1999, Gallien left her contract job, and focused on building her own company which she reorganized and renamed to Photo Texas Photography a decade later.
Gallien is still an educator at heart and relishes in offering services for school portraits.
“Who is more important to our kids than educators? (The kids) are the future of our country and I get super passionate about the educators not being supported and paid enough. I am a huge advocate of schools and children. My team feels like we’re part of the schools. One thing about taking school pictures that’s so cool is that in one moment you can make every child a rock star—pointing out children have beautiful eyes, or a pretty shirt, or great hair you can make him feel like the best.”
Photo Texas has adjusted to the marketplace over the years–taking services from a traditional student headshot to a studio type. States Gallien, “Although, there are numerous digital cameras on the market, just owning one doesn’t make you good. Our expertise and love of kids is what make our pictures what they are. There is a great deal of photoshop software out there, but my people have years and years of training, and the things they can do are advanced.”
Gallien remains connected to the communities she shoots. “We are members of the community, giving back however we can—supporting a family at Christmas, working with the Mobile Loaves & Fishes program at St. Thomas More during summer for the kids, volunteering at a food bank.”
Gallien is proud to provide a workplace she calls “happy and rewarding” as well as offering health insurance and a retirement plan for her employees—one of whom was a kid she coached on the little league baseball team years ago.
“Our company will continue to build relationships in the community while providing and preserving our most precious memories through photographs of our children,” Gallien said.