Through Lenses & Light

The key issue in photography is who the photographer is, how the photographer sees the world, and whether the photographer can create images that resonate and emotionally rock.
Nothing else matters.  Period.
So the next time, don’t ask what camera an image was made with.  This is like asking a painter what brush he used.  Ask instead whether the photo moves you, and if so, why and how?

                                                    ~ Harold Davis ~

In 2016 Regina and I were invited to participate in a photography exhibit at the Eula Mae Edwards gallery on the campus of Clovis Community College.  The title of the show was “Through Lenses & Light” and featured the work of nine selected area photographers.  This was quite an unexpected honor for both of us.

The image above was one of the ones that I chose to present for my work.  I had gone out one late spring evening after dinner to see what I could find with my cameras.  I began working some of the dirt roads out north and west of Ranchvale with my eyes constantly moving and taking in and processing the scenes before me.  As I drove along the edge of this particular field of winter wheat the clouds and light aligned in a spectacular way.  I didn’t stop at first, as is quite often the case, but the scene was being processed internally and it wasn’t long before my muse was knocking away at me letting me know that I needed to stop and go back.  And I was ultimately rewarded with this capture.

We had a really nice opening reception for the show that was very well attended by many from the community.  I actually did not know many of the other photographers who were part of the show.  One of them I did know though.  Regina had taken two digital photography courses from him as part of her fine art degree that she was working on at CCC.

For one of her assignments she had photographed one of my old view cameras and some of the lenses.  When he saw those images his interest had been piqued as she had not told him that she was married to someone who has worked at photographing for a long time.  He was particularly pleased to discover that there was someone else in the area who knew what a view camera was and how to use it.  We met a couple of times and talked photography.  He told me that he had been using digital equipment for some time for his professional portraiture work, but that digital photography left him feeling somewhat empty and unfulfilled and that he just could not abide anything but film for his personal work.  I can understand that sentiment on some level, I know there are many who feel the same way.  I have not found that to be an issue for myself, the image and what it says to me are so much more important than how it came to be.  We even said that we should find a time to go out photographing together, but were never able to get that organized.

At one point during the reception a mutual friend of ours was visiting with this photographer as they were looking at my images.  Later that evening my friend and I were talking and he told me that our photographer friend was particularly taken with this image, to the point that he had made the comment that he wished that the image was his.  Not that he wished he owned a copy of it mind you… he was indicating that he wished it was an image that he himself had made.  At least that was my understanding of what had been said.  Quite a testament I felt.

A little bit later in the evening still, I crossed paths with the photographer again and we stopped to visit once more.  He made the comment that he particularly liked this image and I thanked him for the compliment.  “So tell me Bob, did you make that image with your Deardorff?” he asked expectantly.

Instant knot in my stomach!  Here I was, an amateur who had never done anything with my photography beyond making images for myself, to satisfy the need to express myself in ways that words have never been able to do, and now I was in a position of having to talk shop with someone who has made a career and living from the production of photographic images.  I hesitated, for what seemed a long pause, as he smiled up at me waiting to learn what ‘tools of the trade’ I had used to produce this wonderful image.  After that initial hesitation came the resolve, and I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my iPhone.  His smile waned slightly, but perceptively, he gave me a curt nod, hung his head just a bit and turned and walked away…..

It’s easy, at times, to let yourself buy into the narrative some will promote that your images aren’t worth anything more than self amusement and satisfaction if you don’t work with all of the high-end professional equipment.  That your work is not worthy of being held up next to that of the famous and the paid professionals.  We submit our work to calls for entry, every now and then something speaks to the right juror at the right time and we get a little bit of exposure.  If I never gain any recognition or acclaim beyond that I’ll still be happy, and may I never lose sight of the fact that it matters not a whit how an image was made so long as it strikes a chord with someone or ones along the way.

Thank you Harold Davis for providing me with words to think back on and countenance myself that there is no need to ask how an image was made.

(Originally published March 29, 2018)

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