This is my first blog, and my first post. This blog is going to be about photography, my photography, my experiences, my art, my thoughts about these things. It’s a place to show some images, promote my website and my art, think about all the reasons I do photography and create art, look back over my years as an artist, and look ahead to where I want my art to take me.
When I was young, my mother had a Petri 35mm camera in a scuffed leather case. I frequently took this camera out and looked at it. I was intrigued by the dials and settings, the precision, the optics, it’s heavy mass. I don’t know if the camera ever really worked. I don’t think anyone in our family ever took a picture with it. My stepfather had a Polaroid land camera. One of the large folding ones. You would open the front and pull out the lensboard and bellows. It was a modern miracle. Pictures in 60 seconds. It had a dial on the front for setting EV values, no f/stops. It had a small attached exposure meter, a large rangefinder, and a standard flash attachment that took flash bulbs. Eventually my dad added a “wink-light”, Polaroids electronic strobe. Another miraculous invention. No more sizzling hot bulbs to dispose of. Over Christmases and birthdays he added slip over lenses and filters for special effects. The camera only came out for special events or gatherings. Rarely to just snap a picture of everyday life. Film was expensive and shouldn’t be wasted. He enjoyed the camera, though, and inspired my interest as a young boy. He would cock the shutter, frame the image, and shoot, pull the paper tab hanging from the bottom of the camera, then pull, in one swift, steady motion, the entire photo and negative from the camera. The rollers pinching the package, squeezing the chemistry across the exposed photo. Then delicately holding it, sometimes sort of waving it about in the air, he would watch the second hand on his watch, 60 seconds. Then the magic of peeling away the snapshot. A black and white image of only a few moments past. It was always an amazement. Then he would often entrust the freshly revealed picture to me to wipe on the sticky fixative with the applicator from the film package. Brush carefully two or three times, covering it fully, then set it aside to let it dry. Amazing! That was the start.
I bought my first 35mm camera, a Yashica Lynx 5000E, from a discount store in Chamblee, Georgia, when I was 20. There were two guys that ran the photo counter there, and I became well acquainted with them. I don’t recall their names today, but they were my guides to getting my feet wet as a photographer. The older of the two occasionally loaned me his Topcon Super D. It was the first 35mm SLR I ever used. A tank of a camera, heavy, full featured for the time, and built to last. I remember going with this fellow on one occasion to a black gospel church for a celebration of singing in honor of a particular area gospel group. Many groups from area churches came to sing for them. He and I were the only white people in the place, but felt welcome. It was a moving and inspiring event and probably my first step out of my own narrow cultural experience. For a young white man there’s really nothing to compare with a church full of clapping, stomping, swaying, singing, full-in-the-spirit, black gospel singers. It will give you chills and bring you closer to God than you ever realized you could be.
My next camera was a Minolta SRT-101. This camera was a work horse of that era and I have to say, one of the best cameras I ever owned. This camera took me from being an amateur to being an artist. I became dissatisfied with small snapshots, flat and gray and lacking contrast, from the drug store or the discount store processor. They were expensive and lacked the zip that I knew they could posses. So I went looking for a way to develop and print my own. My stepfather had once taken me to the photo lab at the DeKalb County police headquarters (he was an investigator for the county) and I watched him develop prints under the red safety of the darkroom lights. I eventually found a small darkroom rental facility in Buckhead, in an old converted house, called The Living Image, run by a couple of guys in their twenties. For a few dollars an hour they would show you how to process and print and let you use their equipment and chemistry. Bring your own paper and negatives. They taught me the basics and I was hooked. All my spare money, which wasn’t much back then, went for paper and film. I was finally in control. They eventually merged with another darkroom/gallery on West Peachtree Street in Atlanta and kept the same name. And before long left the company all together leaving it in the hands of Barrie, the woman who would eventually become my second wife.
I spent many hours in the darkness of The Living Image, creating images that I still love today.