I was drawn to photography at a relatively young age and my interest was fueled when I received a 35mm SLR for Christmas, during the boom driven by the introduction of the Canon AE-1. I immediately set about photographing anything and everything I could focus in the viewfinder. I was blissfully happy snapping pictures until a new family moved into the house across the street.
Mr. Sawyer (Tom, no less!) was an enthusiast and didn’t take pictures, but rather he photographed subjects. He also read American Photographer, a periodical for those who recognized that photography was art (at least it seemed that way to this thirteen-year-old boy.) In retrospect, I don’t think that Tom actually took many photos, but he did open my eyes to a much wider world when it came to the potential held by photography. I became familiar with the names and work of masters such as Avedon, Cartier-Bresson, Stieglitz, Adams, Capa, Maisel, Liebovitz, Bourke-White, Weston, Benson, Iooss, and a host of others.
Soon after my horizons had been expanded, I learned how to develop and print my own photos, being taught by a classmate during study hall at school. This suddenly gave me control over my work (and significantly increased my spending power for photography.) I was just like the masters, printing, dodging, burning, and retouching, like the greats. My work wasn’t spectacular, but I controlled the outcome, not some guy at Fotomat.
In my last year of high school, I enrolled in an advanced photography class. I suddenly learned about composition, lighting, contrast, processing, fiber paper, and a thousand other things that made me even more keenly aware of the skills required to create good photographs. I was hooked even more.
My academic pursuits in college tended towards what would be perceived as more practical studies in the social sciences and history than the visual arts. As a result, I drifted in and out of photography during my twenties. In my early thirties, I dove back in. My interests were refined to wildlife, scenery, and natural subjects. In particular, I had remembered an article in American Photographer about John Shaw. I had been moved by his images and sought to follow similar pursuits. He had even written several books that I devoured voraciously for advice about his plentiful technical skills. With my new focus and improved know-how I was able to capture a number of images that I felt were of high quality.
However, my career and the arrival of a family put my passion on hold. I eventually saw the handwriting on the wall for film equipment and made the decision to sell the gear I had accumulated over the previous decade and a half, fully expecting to replace it with new digital equipment. Ten years passed and I had purchased a couple prosumer level point and shoot digital cameras over that time, but no serious equipment. They worked fine for the simple things I sought for them to do. Over the years, though, I had many moments where I thought, “there’s a potentially good image” or “look at those colors” or “that’d be a great composition” but didn’t have the tools to act upon those feelings.
I have my son to thank for taking the plunge to resuscitate my photography. He enjoys creating videos and pleaded for me to acquire a DSLR that could be used for high resolution videos. After a little research, I made a purchase for both of us to use. I was immediately blown away by what could be accomplished with a DSLR, particularly using my accrued knowledge of photography. In addition, a few tweaks to the color in the digital darkroom resulted in images that were exactly what my mind’s eye had seen when I pressed the shutter release.
I have never been more passionate or happier about photography. I am excited every time I have an opportunity to shoot. The skills I developed over the years, from my earliest lessons in understanding the tool that is the camera, to the vision I have refined up to the present, allow me to create art that captures the beauty of the world around us. I am happy to share it with you.