One month from my 16th birthday, I created this 1956 version of a “selfie.” Easy to do when you’re photographing into a mirror. The alternative was to use a self-timer. In either case, it was difficult to line up with a rangefinder camera that resisted getting two edges of the mirror’s frame straight. So what to do? Easy enough – just wait! In our era of Photoshop. I simply lined it up.
My point? Even then, the darkroom translated handily to the digital age. I had long ago appreciated what you’ll see on a histogram: the range of tones from whitest white to blackest black. Arranged properly, this gives you not only a range of tones but a happy medium, so you have readable mid-tones and a pleasing contrast as well. The effect then is snappy, what we used to try to achieve in creating a print. So now I have both vintage prints, the ones I created close to the time I developed my negatives, as well as pigmented ink jet contemporary prints.
These are just as archival but with today’s technology. It lets me tweak my images into a pinpointed perfection not possible in the early days.
Ah, it’s a great time to be digitizing my archives!
You can see this image and more, in my See-Saw book, previewing on Amazon
In an era of flashbulbs and press cameras, I was exploring what available light had to offer. It presented the world as we saw it, without the harsh effect of a single flash. Both techniques froze a moment that goes by in a blur.
Photographing peak action stopped the movement at its height. It allowed slow shutter speeds in an era of slow films. And it preserved a feeling forever.
I learned more about the process, more about the marketing, more about the human condition. I gravitated to photojournalism, happy with candid photography…
…and grateful to people willing to share their lives for my magazine assignments:
College-educated police, from the April 1971 issue of Pageant magazine.
Photojournalism sharpened skills that applied as I tried out other phases of photography, following the twists and turns of a rapidly changing profession. Reacting to my own decisive moments, I sought emotional content whenever it might appear, meaningful composition as a frame, and the feel and shape of the situation.
I remember wishing that I had had a mentor back then, someone experienced, with an overview to help guide me. Instead I created a composite, picking up bits and pieces from so many people I met.
Now I have become one of those who nurture. I have stories to tell, I have realized, after participating in panel discussions, lectures, gallery talks, any events where people gather around. I’ve come to recognize that, wow! I’ve learned something. And I learn even more as I explain to, and consult with, others.
I hope that collectors and curators might want to join in, to share insights with anyone wanting to improve their photography.