Friday, May 13, 2011
MY FIRST CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPH circa 1947
The seeds for this collection of photographs took root during the late nineteen forties when I was growing up in a small rural farming community in south-central Virginia.
That was our screened-in porch in the background with the old concrete pump stand immediately to my left. And I still recognize the two dippers hanging on the post to the right of my head.
The pump was a cast iron long-handle job; ancient by today's stardards. But occasionally, I still see one in a Forest Service campground; many of which have not been updated since the fifties.
Detecting my keen interest in drawing and sketching, my mother handed over her old Brownie box camera (she and dad were both teachers). For whatever reason, she felt that I might be interested in photography. The camera was an early-teens relic by Eastman Kodak, and I jokingly referred to the lens as a leftover chip from a broken pop bottle. I took to it like red clay on a pickup truck. Eventually, I wore it out. I can still remember the day the leather-covered back fell off. I must have been about thirteen.
From this camera came a stream of 120-roll film negatives, which I used for making contact prints in the mid-forties. I worked on moonless nights in the back corner of an old wood shed with several wax-lined trays, assorted odds and ends, and a bit of primitive chemistry. The safe light was a single red bulb dangling from a high ceiling rafter.
This hands-on experience was my introduction to what would later become my fine art photography. The only remaining image from this era is the self-portrait that was made about 1947. Note the string that is being held behind my back with my left hand and runs across the foreground in front of my feet. From there it cut through a forked stick in the ground and connected to the shutter lever of the camera. The camera was mounted on an old wooden tripod. This was, perhaps, my first creative image.
My interest in photography later became a passion and it spread from the nearby Blue Ridge to the Allegheny Highlands; then north and south through the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. From these experiences came my images and tales about how I photographed the last of the mountain people and documented a way of life that was rapidly disappearing from the rural byways of the Appalachians.
In 1997 my wife and I moved west to satisfy a boyhood dream, and my camera was again focused on new landscapes from our first home in Wyoming and then from our final destination along the western slope of Colorado.
As you observe my images and read about some of my many experiences which took place over a period of more than sixty years, you will see how my childhood and early back-woods environment molded me into an artist, helping me to develop the themes of my life and to follow the trail established decades earlier.
My purpose in life has been my art. That is my legacy and gift to society and to future generations. If you are an ardent admirer of rural beauty and grass roots America at her finest, this is a documentary that will never grow old. Enjoy some of that beauty and dignity that still exists in this old world. Sit back, relax and reminisce.