This photograph of Leslie was taken by Devon Hutchins, a photographer and videographer located in Austin, Texas. You can visit his site at: http://www.devonhutchins.com/.
Ladies and gentleman, meet Mr. Leslie Cochran. I was thinking about how nice it was to be in the Austin, Texas area again and a certain person came to mind….Leslie Cochran, also known as Leslie the Transvestite. That might seem like a malicious title, but it’s not meant to be and he wears it proudly. So, in homage to Austin, Texas and its weirdness, I thought I should tell the world a little bit more about Leslie Cochran.
Leslie is an American peace activist, cross-dresser, street person and local celebrity. He is an outspoken critic of police treatment of the homeless. I’ve seen him several times on Sixth Street, which is the hub of Austin nightlife, and had the pleasure of meeting him at an annual Austin festival called Eeyore’s Birthday Party. He usually hangs out near 6th Street during business hours. Most of the time, he is seen wearing women’s clothing. His most popular attire is a leopard thong and high-heeled shoes. Despite the flashy clothes, Leslie prefers to be known as a man.
Leslie attended Florida State University, but never graduated. He lived in the Pacific Northwest and at one time worked as a truck driver frequently traveling up and down the West coast. Cochran has told the Austin American Statesman that he was briefly married in 1985 and 1986. He spent nine months in the Naval Reserve in 1974 and 1975, worked for Safeway grocery stores in Seattle, skinned road-kill in Colorado and tanned the hides, worked as a disc jockey near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, lived in a converted bookmobile in Shreveport, Louisiana, Tampa, Florida and Atlanta, and then took a year to ride a tricycle to Austin in January 1996. One night around 1:00 a.m. on the Saturday morning of October 3, 2009, Leslie Cochran was found outdoors in a vegetative state and was transported to the hospital in critical condition. Within two weeks he had regained consciousness and was transferred to a rehabilitation center. When he was released, Leslie reported that he had been attacked after commenting to a group of people about the dangers of drug abuse.
Leslie has run for Mayor of Austin three times, most recently in 2003, in which Leslie received fifth place. He is featured prominently in the 2010 book, Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas. In the book, the author interviews Leslie and they discuss such topics as Austin’s rapid growth, commercialization, and the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign. In 2009, Leslie Cochran entered the digital age. A company called Costa Systems created the “iLeslie” iPhone application. The application contains an assortment of sound bites by Leslie, as well two longer interviews and a special message from Leslie himself. Half of all profits go to Leslie. The Apple iTunes App Store sells the application. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ileslie/id336348643?mt=8
I chose this photograph because, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I have seen many “street” photographs of homeless people, and sometimes I think the photos portray them poorly. They have a story just like we do, and most of the time theirs is more interesting. I’m really tired of seeing photographs of people who live on the street, down and out, sad, only reason being is that they’re homeless. I want to know their story. I hope to see more narrative in photographs of people like Leslie in the future.