“It is handsome and beautifully elevated, salubrious, and well-watered….” When Houston’s founders, the Allen Brothers, first advertised the availability of lots in 1836 they left out some of the location’s more inconvenient truths in favor of exaggerating its somewhat paltry virtues.
This strategy of omission and embellishment has permeated most marketing campaigns promoting Houston ever since.
Despite its bad rep, many Houstonians love their city, and while there may be consensus on the difficulties of living here (a list we’ve dubbed “the twenty afflictions”) the reasons it’s worth it are diverse and abundant.
Houston. It’s Worth It. (HIWI) began as an unofficial, unsolicited campaign for the city of Houston created by ttweak in summer 2004. The first phase of the campaign (“Tell Us Why”) was a website providing a forum in which Houstonians can voice their enthusiasm and passion for a city that is often misrepresented and misunderstood by outsiders. (Good food and good neighbors were the oft repeated reasons represented, along with “it’s not Dallas.”)
The next phase, in 2006, invited Houstonians to “Show Us Why” their city is worth it. Over 600 photos were received and exhibited at Houston Center for Photography, presenting multiple viewpoints of the city, including a great deal of humor. A selection of those photos became “Houston. It’s Worth It., The Book,” released in fall 2007. In September of 2009, one year after Hurricane Ike hit Houston, Galveston, and countless other communities in the Gulf Coast, HIWI published HIWI:Ike, The Book, a collection of photographs, blog entries, stories and reminiscences as remembered by some of the people who lived through it.
In 2012, Rice University partnered with HIWI to create a special edition in celebration of their 100th anniversary.
Ten years after its conception, HIWI is still going strong. And in the process, Houstonians have hopefully gotten to know themselves and their city a bit better and shown each other, and those who don’t live here, why we love the place.