Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..
I’ve been making photographs since I was about 19 and accumulated thousands of pictures, negatives, Polaroids and slides over the past 40+ years. I love looking back at old photographs. Its like stepping back in time.
Being the nostalgic guy I am, each picture represents a tiny slice of the past, a visual memory of some event, activity, time and place on my journey through this thing called life.
Looking back at old photos is kind of like time traveling. Sometimes I’ll look at old photos from 30-40 years ago and they’ll spur a flood of memories. Good memories, sad, happy, celebratory and even disconcerting. Pictures keep me connected to my past and enrich my present.
Think about it….photographs are really visual snapshots of our personal journey through life. Whether it be family photographs, travel, documentary of just banal snap shots. Each image reminds us of what we were doing at a given point in time. Each picture tells a little story. It may be insignificant to most viewers, but to me my photographs capture a moment in time that in some small way contributed to who I am now and connect me to my past.
I initially got interested in photography during college when I took a basic photography class in 1972 as an elective. I consider myself blessed to have learned photography before the digital age. I vividly remember being in the darkroom with an amber safe light glowing above me while making my first prints. What a magical moment that was over 40 years ago watching my first picture come to life in the tray of developer. I picked it up with a plastic tipped tong and took it through the development process tray by tray until dropping it into the washing bath. The moment I pulled my first set of prints out of the dryer I was hooked. I knew at that moment I would pursue photography in some fashion for the rest of my life.
I went into the Army soon after graduating college and was given the opportunity to go to the Air Force Photography School after basic training. The Army recruiter told me there was one slot for an Army Photojournalist during my initial enlistment phase and I jumped on it. That one decision paved the way for a long and exciting career in photography.
I’m semi-retired from full time teaching now. I got my start as a photographer in the military and built on that foundation in Graduate School working on my MFA thanks to the GI Bill. I’ve worked as a photojournalist, commercial photographer, industrial photographer, wedding photographer, photo-blogger and finally a photo-educator. What an amazing and personally satisfying career sojourn it has been.
I’m still very passionate about all forms of photography and still teach art and photo history courses online as an adjunct instructor, in addition to doing photo workshops and critiques here in the states, Europe and Central America. Sure, I’m a little nostalgic for the days of film and working in the darkroom, however I also see the benefits of digital photography as well. It saves time and you no longer have to work with toxic chemicals.
The medium of Photography has evolved and reinvented itself numerous times since its invention. At first it was not considered an art – just the step-child for painting. Digital technology completely revolutionized the medium of photography just in the past 20 years. Photography has an amazing and unique history and in fact the concept (theory) of photography goes back to the drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci and even before him to Chinese and Greek philosophers who conceptualized the basic principles of optics and the camera obscura.
It took thousands of years later for French inventor Nicephore Niépce in 1822 to actually make the first photography. It was Louis Daguerre who actually developed a photographic process that was viable and could be patented by the French Government in 1839.
It is hard to fathom that these early innovators were able to conceptualize the photographic process and then identify the right combination of chemicals that would capture a latent image and make it permanent on light sensitive material. Most people take their cell phone cameras for granted and have no idea just how difficult and time consuming it was to make a photograph 15o years ago. Its amazing that our high tech digital cameras today can be traced back to the camera obscura. They all function on the same camera principle.
Most people who run around snapping FB and Instagram photos with cell phones really don’t have any idea of how digital / cell phone photography came about. Photography has a rich and complex history and it took many innovations, inventors, experiments and technical set-backs to get photography where it is today.
From its very inception back in the early 1800’s photography has been a way for people to hold onto their memories. The Kodak camera enabled photographers and the general public to be much more spontaneous than the Daguerreotype. That was one of the keys to its huge success, in addition to being a big factor in how it was marketed. The little box camera was user friendly and got more and more people talking pictures and capturing memories. Photography would now become part of the fabric of the culture. It was no longer just a tool for professionals.
Kodak and their revolutionary easy to use camera and processing literally took the mystery out of photography allowing anyone to make a snapshot of friends, family and daily activities.
Photography was now available to the masses and the world would never be the same.
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
― Susan Sontag