My photo journey – Installment #3
All photos are Copyright George Cannon, all rights reserved.
In spite of Boston being a cool town with a lot to offer, it was also an expensive place to live with the worst drivers I have ever experienced. I found I was living there but continuing to come back to New York to work, to photograph. In 1979, just before our book came off press, my wife and I moved to Ithaca. They have a motto for Ithaca… “Centrally Isolated”. It describes it well. An upscale college town with Cornell and Ithaca College, little industry, a generally good economy, and a very diverse population. But our draw here was the landscape, the parks, the farm land, the gorges, the lakes. The Finger Lakes were formed, legend has it, by God’s hand holding the earth during creation.
We worked here building relationships with New York Alive, Horticulture, Adirondack Life, and other magazines. We also did some work with Minolta Cameras and Fuji Film. But I found as I worked at being a professional photographer something terrible happened. I lost my creativity, I lost my drive. I became so concerned with whether I could sell each shot I took, that I quit shooting for me. I lost my eye. Nothing appealed. The only time I really enjoyed what I was shooting was when I was able to just shoot without thinking about marketing the image. So after about three years in Ithaca, I changed careers. I took my artistic drive and creativity and opened a stained and leaded glass studio. I had begun working with glass in Rochester as a hobby. It too, like my photography, had grown to a very involved creative effort. And so Lumiere Glasswork Studio was born.
It saved me as an artist. I had great clients that gave me free reign to create. Many pieces were a result of photos I had taken over the years. It also saved my photography. I was able to shoot for myself again. I also began teaching photography to students in adult education classes. I found a new love for my own work and became inspired by students who truly wanted to learn.
Three years later my wife and I divorced. I closed my retail studio and began to work strictly on commissions. I continued to teach and photograph. My friend Mark had moved to Tallahassee to get his phd at Florida State, and I spent a great deal of time traveling back and forth to visit him and Renee, the woman he eventually married. We often took ourselves down to St. George island on the Gulf coast near Apalachicola.
I moved to Trumansburg, outside of Ithaca to a fantastic apartment on Main Street. 2000 square feet for $400 a month. It was the former Odd Fellows meeting hall on the top floor of an old brick building, and large enough to house me and my glass studio space.
A few months later I took a month off from work, bought a new Caravan, packed all my photo gear and took off to drive across the country. I first went south to visit Mark and Renee and Sally, a woman I had met at their wedding. We hooked up at Cedar Key on the Gulf. Renee was pregnant with their first child.
I drove from there across the panhandle of Florida and along the Gulf to New Orleans. Then up to Dallas where Sally flew in and met me. We drove to her family’s home in Oklahoma for a couple of days, then across Texas to Albequerque where she caught a flight back to Florida. I continued to drive and photograph where ever I wanted, stopping when ever I felt like it. Up through the four corners, red rock country, the parks of Utah and Colorado. Never in my life have I ever seen country as spectacular as Utah. I was in awe. Arches, Canyonlands, Zion. This is unbelievable country. I spent several days in Utah and on the border with Arizona. Then drove on to Nevada and Death Valley.
I made my way over to California, up through Sequoia and Yosimite before turning to head back home. I shot a lot of film. It was by far one of the grandest experiences of my life. I drove 9000 miles in four weeks, and I would do it again tomorrow if I could.
My glass studio was the source of many changes for me. Many new friends, accomplishments, artistic opportunities. It’s also where I met my third wife. Tanni came into the studio one day to buy supplies for a class she was teaching at a community center. We became close friends and had a great attraction for each other. Unfortunately for me, she became engaged to another guy soon after and married. I took the photos for their wedding invitation. Sally eventually moved up to Trumansburg and we lived together there and in another house in the country south of Ithaca for about four years. It was a stroke of fate that Sally and I split, as did Tanni and her husband at about the same time. We married in 1991.
I now work at an art museum. I have given up the glass work (almost). I no longer teach. But my photography has become more important to me again, much as it was when I was twenty and starting out, although with a much honed vision and far more experience than I had then. The influence of my mentors and photographic idols over the years, Freeman Patterson, George Tice, Eliot Porter, Joel Meyerowitz, and many others, have shaped my vision and taught me how to look for the essence of the image. The introduction of digital and the photoshop generation and my reluctant acceptance of these has been an awakening. Don’t know what I was waiting for. And the growth of the internet and the opportunities to express yourself with a worldwide audience is not like anything I would have imagined when I was shooting with my first 35mm camera. And so a new website, and a blog, and a world of images. Who would have believed it. Life is full of surprises.
Freeman Patterson said, “Every photograph has it’s origin in the desire of the photographer to say something meaningful.” So I think this blog is about saying something meaningful. For myself, and to anyone else. It will become, I hope, an exploration. A new way of looking at the images I take, and a way to put some meaning to them.