I ran across a photograph last night that reminded me of something I once knew. It’s something I remembered for all the years I took photographs using a film camera. It made a deep impression on me but it’s something we don’t understand in these days of so-easy-to-use digital cameras. And recently I’ve almost forgotten about it. Not practiced it. Maybe even deliberately ignored it.
Back in junior college, I met the chief photographer for The Seattle Times, an incredibly artistic photographer named Josef Scalea. He sat on the grass with my journalism class and talked about his career and his work. He showed us photographs, many that we’d already seen in the newspaper and others that he shared in galleries across the nation.
One was a color portrait of an old Indian chief, lines on his face giving him so much character we could even feel it. We oow’d and awe’d over the clarity and artistry of the photograph. “You like that?” Scalea asked.
Then he uncovered a similar portrait of the same man, but in black and white. It was obvious the photo had been taken IN black and white, and not converted from color. The difference was so dramatic — the color photo seemed like a pale rendition of a picture that simply oozed character. Breathed it. It brought the old chief to life.
Scalea’s demonstration came back to haunt me in a photo — a series of photos — that I saw on photographer David Charlwood’s blog (http://charlwoodphotography.wordpress.com/category/editing/). I pinned one to my Pinterest board. I’m not deliberately promoting Charlwood or his workshops, especially since I’m in Seattle and he’s in Berkshire, UK. Yes, he’s very good but that’s not my point.
I’m promising that I’ll start taking photographs again. It’s been several months since I picked up my camera and years since I tried to take anything but grab shots to preserve moments of record.
Now I’m inspired to go out and look for moments of real permanence and moments when art can be created using a strong sense of beauty and form and lighting. That includes railroad tracks, like on my pin board.