About

“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

My equipment

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.

§ 9 Responses to About

  • Bruce A. Taylor says:

    Drew, hi! Wonderful to see your work here. We haven’t had contact in, what, 30 plus years?

    Bruce

  • Babaduck says:

    Drew – I read your Ricoh review & am very curious. As you can see I’m a food blogger with a lot of food shots. Is this camera suitable for what I do (what I’m aiming for is a camera that will allow me to take shots similar to http://www.donalskehan.com) albeit without his raw natural talent!

    • Drew says:

      Babaduck,
      First, nice blog! I enjoyed looking at your food pictures . . . they made me hungry!

      The Ricoh may have an advantage for you in that you appear to travel a lot, and the CX4 (and all of its various CX brothers and sisters) is very compact but still capable of producing clear, sharp pictures with great color.

      However, my guess is that the pictures on the Donald Skehan site are produced by an SLR camera, which is much bigger. I say this because if you look carefully at his pictures the main point of interest is usually in focus, and the background is out of focus. This in focus/out of focus effect can only be predictably achieved by using an SLR. SLR lenses can be adjusted (whereas most of the small pocket cameras like the Ricoh make all the adjustments for you automatically), and one of the chief advantages is that you an select which bits are in focus and which are not.

      As it happens, the Ricoh CX4 does have an option in its art filters settings called “Miniaturize,” which will allow an approximation of this effect. Essentially there is a band across the middle of the picture that is in focus with everything above and below that band being a bit blurred. I guess you could use that setting to create something similar to the Skehan look, but it would not be quite as flexible as being able to completely control the point of focus. If you want to send me your e-mail address, I will send along a photo taken in this mode so you can see for yourself.

      To summarize, the Ricoh will give you great portability and thus make a perfect travel companion. And it takes great photographs. A larger SLR camera will easily allow you to make pictures that are more like Skehan’s, but it will be more of a chore to carry around (and more expensive). I hope I have made this clear and not flooded you with too much esoteric technical stuff.

      Thanks for asking. Keep up the good work!

      Drew

  • Babaduck says:

    Drew, you are a gentleman for taking the time to explain this to me. I’m currently using a Sony (which my husband very kindly bought for me – but I never would have chosen it myself…) and I can’t justify the expense of an SLR at the moment. Also a lot of my photos are taken away from home in restaurants etc and it’s a lot easier and less obvious to take a small camera out of your pocket/bag to grab a shot!!

    Donal Skehan does use an SLR and has a great eye for shots (he took most of the photos for his book himself) but if you wouldn’t mind emailing me the photo you referred to, I’d be hugely appreciative. My email is babaduck at gmail dot com

    Again thank you!
    Aoife

  • Richard says:

    Dear Drew

    I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing your fine pics – I see that we both have taken pics of the kitchen drainer!

    We also both are big fans of the Ricoh CX4 – using it is really pleasing, as are the pics, even if they are not always the sharpest. I think the CX4 will satisfy my needs for quite a while: it is much more usable than the CX5, though the CX6 has some new features (including a slight bump for a finger-grio) and the sharper lens of the GRD is certainly tempting.

    So I wonder whether you have felt any urge to move to the CX6, or even a GRD III or IV? Or something else?

    Best wishes, and thanks

    Richard

    • Drew says:

      Hello Richard,

      Thanks for your interesting comment. I still use the CX4, and consider it one of my best all-round cameras. I have others that do this or that better, but as far as a camera that I am comfortable carrying frequently and using often, the CX4 has been a great pleasure. My wife has the CX5, although it has just broken down after about a year of moderate use. As far as the CX6 goes, there is not enough there to tempt me into trading up. I have to admit, though, that my most-used camera these days is the one in my iPhone 4s. The combination of easy portability, fantastic apps for editing, and a ready outlet through Instagram has made a convert out of me. I have actually uploaded some of the CX4 images to the iPhone, processed them with the Snapseed app, and sent them out via Instagram. They look wonderful in this setting, as well.

      I hope that your CX4 will continue to give you years of pleasure. I have had hundreds of cameras in my 30+ years of photography, and it is certainly one of my favorites.

      Thank you again for your comments.

      With best regards,

      Drew

  • hikimanu says:

    Hey Drew! I’m a music producer and I’m going to use your photos on my Soundcloud page, that’s okay, right? Your photographs are some of the most personally resonating pieces of art I’ve seen. Like seriously, I’m mesmerized. You should be getting paid for this. I can’t even put into words how cool I think your photos are like DAMN.

    Here’s a song (still a little unfinished) I planned to use your art on. Hope this is alright with you! https://soundcloud.com/hikimanu/two/s-U3Uc8

    • Drew says:

      Thank you for your kind words! And thank you for asking to use my photo. Yes, it is OK to use it. I like your music very much!
      –Drew

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