I’ve had a love for telling stories with a camera since I was a boy. It all started with my first camera, an Argus Seventy-Five twin-lens reflex with a 75mm lens and aperture. It used Kodak 620 film, which made 2.25-inch square prints with a white boarder around them.
The Watsons, my Tulsa neighbors who lived next door to the south, gave the camera to me in the eighth grade around 1974. It was their son, Johnny’s, old camera. He was at least 10-years older than me and had graduated high school and moved from Tulsa.
The camera came with a leather case and portable flash that used bulbs. I took lots of photos with the camera and still have many them in a photo album tucked away in one of my bookcases.
One of my favorite photos I took was of a western sunset while traveling across the Arizona desert in August 1975 on a family vacation to California. I sat the camera on the dashboard of my dad’s 1967 C-10 Chevrolet pickup and took the photo while rolling down the Interstate. It was amazing that the camera wasn’t shaking like a leaf in a windstorm, being that it was on the dashboard of a moving vehicle loaded with four people.
Another of my favorites I took with the Argus camera was of my dad using the mirror on his truck to shave during a vacation camping trip. I hope to come across that photo someday so I can share it.
I still have the Argus camera, but have not used it in more than 30 years. It doesn’t have much value outside of the memories. But it is still a “cool” relic and keepsake.
I learned much of what I know today about photography in the darkroom while studying the artform in community college in the late 1980s. I returned to college in August 1987 after winning my first 35mm camera, a Konica FP-1, in a weight loss bet with a co-worker and friend in 1983. The bet was for $50, but instead, he gave me the camera.
It was in community college that I learned how to develop black and white and color film and make prints from negatives.
The community college experience opened many doors. After earning my AAS degree in 1991, I opted to continue my education and in August 1992, I took my first class at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I went on to earn a BS degree in Agricultural Journalism (photojournalism) at 38-years of age.
I have taken thousands of photographs in the years since college. And some of my favorites are of the youth and their prize-winning animals at the county fair. Outside of newspaper work, I also operate a photography business.
I was at a photo shoot at a Grinnell business last month and was visiting with the director, who is also a friend. He likes my photography and told me about a Grinnell College on-line publication, Rootstalk, which is published through the Center for Prairie Studies. He suggested that I consider submitting a photo or two to the publication.
I visited the Rootstalk website and while scanning through the submissions, I discovered a Maryland photographer, Keith Koztoff, who had submitted a portrait to a recent edition. It was taken in 1973 of his neighbor, Mrs. Cecile Schwab, who lived with her husband, Joe, in an off-campus apartment above a florist in downtown Grinnell. Keith, who was attending Grinnell College at the time, said the Schwabs acted as surrogate grandparents, and kindly allowed him to take photos of them in their apartment.
“Mrs. Schwab liked collectibles,” Keith said. “Mr. Schwab rarely left his chair.”
The photo is featured along with some of his other work on a website, Peripheral Visions. I enjoyed looking at Keith’s work and reading about his life journey.
Another one that comes to mind is Jerry Gay, a retired Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist from Seattle, Wash. Jerry published a photography book entitled, “Seeing Reality.” It’s a wonderful book filled with story-telling photos from his travels across the United States. Debbie found a copy at an on-line used bookstore and gave it to me for Christmas last year. It’s a gem!
I love reading the stories and looking at the work of other photographers. Even though I have my own style, seeing other work inspires me and encourages me to continue telling stories of life. I’m so thankful for the Watsons giving me the Argus camera and planting that seed in my heart so many years ago. And I can’t forget about my friend and former co-worker who opted to give me his camera instead of the $50 for winning the weight loss bet.
Have a great week and take care of yourself, my friends. And always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.