Dining in Austin looks a lot different right now. Documenting this new era of dining and food service, local photographer Annie Ray and her husband, creative director and copywriter Neil Petty, decided to embark on a photo series project called Still Here ATX.
The duo wanted to see how how local business owners are adjusting to this new reality of dining during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which restaurants pivoted to takeout services to help continue to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The photo series, being shared on Ray’s Instagram account, showcases how restaurants, convenience stores, and farmers market stands are safely staying open for business, from wearing masks to opening walkup windows to handing off coffee drinks outside of cafes to installing plexiglass dividers.
Ray and Petty began working on the photo series in early April — “right when things got really WTF,” Ray explained, “our reality was turned upside down.”
“At our favorite coffee shop,” Ray continued, “we would order coffee at the counter, and then a couple of days later, we’d be ordering through the shop doorway with plexiglass between us and the barista.”
They asked each business for permission to shoot the photos ahead of time, and they also received several requests later on. The photographs were shot under social distancing guidelines while also wearing masks: Ray took the photos, Petty held the light.
“These photos became little beacons of hope and normalcy for everyone,” Ray said, “reminding Austinites they could still stop by, shop, and support their favorite spots.”
“Everywhere you looked,” Ray explained, “there was a lot of doubt and uncertainty. We had to remind people of the places they love and show that no matter what, these people and staff care.”
Austin’s facial covering ordinance happened in the middle of the photo project (hence why employees aren’t wearing coverings in certain photos). “Lots of us brought up the Tyra Banks comment about how people always smile with their eyes,” Ray said. “It’s so true in these.” (That requirement expires on Friday, May 1, because of the Texas governor’s new executive order, which reopens businesses in limited capacities and only recommends masks.)
Accompanying Ray’s photographs on Instagram is a poem written by Petty. Ray also noted that they would order food from each business at the completion of each shoot.
Below, check out Ray’s photos from Austin restaurants and food-centered businesses such as Wok ‘n Express, Sa-Ten, and Austin Daily Press, and check out the ongoing series on her Instagram account.