Black Midi in Sept. 2022 (photo by Sophia Lawson)
For Sophia Lawson, Red River Street institution the Mohawk represents her starting point in the local music scene. The former Mohawk intern’s name is set to adorn the chalkboard marquee for her debut exhibition, “Still Sounds,” celebrating a decade in freelance photography.
“Mohawk is the place where I’ve seen and photographed the most shows,” says Lawson, also a former part-time marketing employee at the ‘Hawk. “Its mantra is ‘All Are Welcome,’ and that’s why I love it. It’s a second home for me. I can go to a show there alone and not feel alone.”
“Still Sounds” – on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 7pm – is free, with RSVP required through the Mohawk website. The gallery will include 14 framed poster-sized photographs by Austin native Lawson. The one-night photo show also promises a solo performance by Sabrina Ellis of A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit, and pizza from neighboring Hoboken Pie.
The selected images – including photos of Japanese Breakfast, Phoebe Bridgers, Big Freedia, and Spoon – commemorate a few of the venue’s best moments since reopening in May 2021.
Sophia Lawson (photo by Jake Villarreal)
“I tried to feature the entire decade, but it was too much to sift through,” Lawson says. “When I decided to narrow it down, I thought of how proud I was that Mohawk bounced back from the pandemic, so I wanted to feature images from this time period.”
As the milestone of 10 years in concert photography approached, Lawson wanted to showcase her work in a physical medium – a genuine attempt to differentiate from the experience of observing photos via social media. She took the idea to friend and Mohawk production manager Zach Teesdale, who eventually looped in brand manager Heather Kaplan. From there, the inklings of a celebration transformed into a fully formed exhibition.
“It’s very rare [that] photos are printed and shared, particularly with this subject matter,” Lawson says. “Seeing the scale and the color of these images in person, versus pulling it up on Instagram, is a huge contrast. Showing these photos will hopefully allow people to look back on their own experiences at Mohawk.”
Alongside traditional prints, video snippets and images taken by Lawson will be shown on walls of retro CRT TVs and projections in a visual installation designed by local Phantastic Lights, who provided lighting design for the Black Angels on their fall tour. Lawson says her visual style is more documentary than graphic art, with intentional uses of color, saturation, and placement. Additionally, the “Still Sounds” selection depicts how versatile a photographer must be at Mohawk, because, unlike other venues, there’s no photo pit or designated area for shutterbugs.
“Mohawk is not an easy place to shoot, because you’re kind of going against the crowd,” Lawson says. “Sometimes a hand flies up in front of you and ruins your shot.”
Self-described as reserved and shy, Lawson remains her toughest critic and often battles imposter syndrome. But with the support of her friends and peers, she’s excited to showcase at her second home in a way she didn’t think possible a few months ago.
“That’s why this works – I know the space so well, I know the people so well,” Lawson describes. “I have great photographs from other places, venues, and artists, but this idea was strictly Mohawk. I didn’t think it would make sense to show any of these photos anywhere else.”