“I wander, but wandering is not so different from dancing. Things have come full circle, and while there’s still time, and for as long as I can, I want to dance. I want to see, I want to take photographs, and all kinds of dancing are allowed.”–Sarah Moon
Photo biography–I have been photographing since 1972, when I inherited my grandfather’s Zeiss camera. There was a lot of intense work throughout the 70s and 80s, with shows and a few prizes. During that period, the Polaroid Collection bought several of my prints.
Then came a long break, while many other things happened. And now I have returned to a photographic world that has changed, with incredible new digital cameras, no more bad-smelling darkrooms, and the Web, where the audience is world-wide. What a joy to be at work again during this extraordinary time in the history of photography!
“All kinds of dancing are allowed, ” says Sarah Moon. Exactly what I think. I don’t go on photographic expeditions. I spend my days mostly at work or at home, so I try to photograph in a way that transforms the ordinary into something a bit more. Since I think that the extraordinary is often hidden just behind the ordinary, this works fine for me. Mostly, I work with the Ricoh CX4 and the OlympusE-PL1, which allow for different formats, double exposures, and a variety of special effects, such as soft focus, that help turn my living room chair and my neighbor’s gardens into a slightly different world.
At work, I am the director of publications at a private liberal arts college. Most of my career has been in public relations for institutions of higher education, starting at the University of New Hampshire, then moving to Wesleyan University, and finally to my current position. My job allows me to use both my writing and my visual skills, although I do not photograph for work–I leave that to some great professionals like Nick Lacy, Bob Handelman, and Al Ferriera
Ricoh CX4–Not one of the superstars of the camera world, but it does all kinds of things that I like. It’s small enough to easily fit in my pocket and go everywhere with me. The lens goes from 28mm to 300mm, so I can photograph in almost any kind of situation. The basic photos it produces are sharp and have great color without a lot of manipulation in the computer. And there are a lot of art filters like cross process, soft focus, and high-contrast black and white that help transform mundane situations into something a bit unusual.
Olympus E-PL1–This camera is fantastic. Great quality photographs with very little post-processing fuss. I almost always use it with the Lens Baby Composer attached, which makes the photos soft around the edges and sharp in the middle, much like the legendary Diana toy camera. I use the E-PL1 with the Olympus electronic viewfinder, which makes it much easier to use in bright sunlight, when the screen on the back is often obscured by glare. And I almost always set the camera to standard black and white.
Panasonic DMC-TS1–This is another very small, pocketable camera that has the added feature of being weatherproof. I have always wanted an all-weather camera (I had a Nikonos underwater camera for a while, back in the film days, but it was big and bulky.) As it turns out, this is a very nice camera, even when the sun is shining. I shot most of the pictures in the post called “Chebeague Island Still Lifes” with it.
My computer is a MacBook, which I got in early 2010 to replace my aging Mac PowerBook G4. I use Photoshop Elements to process my pictures. I have an old HP Deskjet 5150 printer that does an unexpectedly handsome job (run off the old PowerBook) of printing small prints when I need something on paper. The most wonderful thing about digital photography is that I can now escape the tyranny of the darkroom! I seriously disliked the darkness, the smell, the loneliness, the unpredictable results, and the expense. Now I can sit here and work on my photography in this light-filled room, with Margaret correcting her term papers (medieval literature) at her desk on the other side of the study and with a wonderful view of the wind tossing the tree branches just outside the window. Much better!
Older cameras–35mm was never my favorite, although I have had quite a few of these cameras over the years, mostly Nikons and Nikkormats. The pictures always seemed too long and narrow. Most of my film shooting was done on a 6×6 Rolleicord, a 6×7 Koni Omega (great camera, much under-appreciated), or a Mamiya TLR. Also various Polaroids. I have had several Nikon DSLRs (D80, D70, D40), but they carried the 3:2 aspect ratio over from film into digital. Compact digital cameras offer the 4:3 ratio that is more pleasing to me, and I have had a lot of them (many Canons, culminating in the G10, and many, many Panasonics). One of the great things about the CX4 and E-PL1 is that they offer 1:1, 4:3, and the 3:2 ratios, which allows for all kinds of flexibility.
I love cameras and have had closets full of them over the past 40 years. Fortunately, I never thought that a new camera or a new lens would improve my photography. I’ve always had a good grasp on the fact that it’s only what goes on in my head that makes the photographs interesting or not. I just like cameras for their own sake. I like to think about them and look at them and read about them and touch them and collect them. And I like taking pictures with them!
Influences and teachers
My all-stars: Deborah Turbeville, Masao Yamamoto, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Sarah Moon (see links)
Three who photograph(ed) close to home: Nancy Rexroth, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Sally Mann
Three of the best teachers: Richard Merritt, professor of photography, emeritus, at the University of New Hampshire–teacher, mentor, and dear friend. Kitty Winslow, with whom I took many courses while getting my master’s degree at Wesleyan University. Harriet Caldwell, whose “Alternative Drawing” class at the University of Hartford was a lasting inspiration.
Two”fathers”: Josef Sudek, Irving Penn
And always, thank you to Margaret.
Legal Department: It’s pretty much OK if you use my pictures, but please notify me first and give me credit.