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Author Topic: The Decisive Moment  (Read 1123 times)

Rob C

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The Decisive Moment
« on: June 18, 2019, 09:23:49 am »

Nope, nothing to do with HC-B, but everything to do with us.

This is probably going to prove too personal to find traction, but if not, anyone interested in telling us why they decided to become professional image makers in the first instance?

The thread is open to painters, too, because the mindset is pretty much the same.

For myself, it was pretty simple: I couldn't find anything else that obsessed me the way photography did: it was everything I could dream about doing with my life. It was a slow, often impossible-looking thing to do, but it happened in spite of that. Took around six years from starting out in an industrial photo-unit to opening my own show.

Fat years and lean years, it was always like that, and just when I figured the sky's the limit, the friggin' sky hit me on the head. Fortunately, on balance, there was more sunshine than rain.

That's the bowdlerized version. A silver spoon in my mouth at birth might have helped; I don't think EPNS qualified.

In retrospect, no major regrets; just wish I'd had more highly developed street smarts.

Rob
« Last Edit: June 18, 2019, 10:16:37 am by Rob C »
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KLaban

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Re: The Decisive Moment
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2019, 12:26:21 pm »

Simply put, I followed in my father's footsteps. His was an inborn talent - a talent that can't be explained by education or experience - whereas mine was more of an inborn interest leading to - via education and experience - a modicum of talent. What else was I going to do, image making was the only thing that interested me and the only thing I could do well.
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Harold Clark

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Re: The Decisive Moment
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2019, 02:38:35 pm »

This is a good topic Rob, I am glad you posted it. I grew up in a rural village on Canada's east coast, there weren't any photo clubs to join. My grandmother had a pretty good eye and took occasional snapshots of life on the farm over the years. Some of these photos were displayed on the walls, along with professional portraits of family members, some dating from the late 1800s. I became fascinated with the power of photographs, how they froze time and could convey personality in portraits.

By about 12 or 13 years of age ( 1966-67 ) I knew I would be a photographer and started buying popular photo magazines. I lived near one of the largest Air Force bases in Canada and we had a lot of American service men stationed there who maintained the nukes. One moved next door, and very generously lent me an Exacta 35mm SLR and an enlarger which I set up in my root cellar darkroom. I had previously acquired an Argus
126 cartridge camera too, but the Exacta was much more exotic. This neighbour also lent me his 4x5 speed graphic on couple of occasions, which I found quite fascinating.

After graduation it was off to photography school for 3 years, then I started as a photojournalist for Canada's national magazines, diversifying eventually to industrial and architectural photography as well.

This is my 45th year in the business, like Prince Philip I think I am on the Freedom 95 retirement plan! Like you I have had up and down years, but overall a very interesting and fulfilling career. I worked in a paper mill one summer while in college, and I was very happy to be leaving in September and not spending the next 40 years there.

I have had a few adventures; being questioned by the RCMP and having my film seized on suspicion of being a Russian spy, getting in trouble with the locals for photographing a mosque in Tunisia, accidentally locking myself in the back of a hearse during a shoot in a deserted cemetery, photographing the interior of water a reservoir and being locked in the compound after staff forget I was there and left for the day.

A photo my grandmother took of my father, four of his brothers and my grandfather in their WW2 uniforms made an early impression on me. My grandfather had been wounded at Vimy Ridge in WW1, but re-enlisted in the Veteran's Guard in WW2. That photo was featured in a recent CBC story about my uncle who was involved in the D day landings.
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Rob C

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Re: The Decisive Moment
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2019, 04:00:42 pm »

Oh well, thanks for trying; guess pros are more shy than I'd imagined!

;-)

petermfiore

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Re: The Decisive Moment
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2019, 04:45:40 pm »

Here goes...

My first memory is about light. I was under two years old when I was looking into our dinning room. My grandmother was ironing on the table and my "baby" brother was sitting in his bassinet. The light from above was catching my grandmother's white hair and the top of the white tablecloth. I was captivated by light.

Five years later I was drawing seriously. Everything That stood still I drew.

When I was ten years old my father came home from work with a Zeiss Ikon Contessa. A customer of my dad's wanted to trade the camera for a bottle of vodka. Great deal. That evening my dad handed it to me and said, "your home for the summer, try to figure it out". Next day I went to the library and took out a couple of books on photography.

Not only did my photography skills soared but so did my ability to read and comprehend. Teachers were amazed!! Funny thing I finally was reading something that I gave a damn about.

I received a scholarship to Pratt Institute and went on to have a career as an Illustrator. Painting book covers, editorial work for national magazines and the advertising world.

All was good good for quite awhile. Then I couldn't do it anymore. One too many Huckleberry Finn covers.

I'v been painting for myself for the last twenty years.

Through all and everything I have either painted or photographed, it has always been about the magic of light and how it shapes my thinking.

I can't think of anything else I could have been.

Peter

Rob C

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Re: The Decisive Moment
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2019, 04:44:16 pm »

That seems to be the common factor: nobody could imagine doing anything else.

It's only a small group of us, thus far, but I get the impression we also needed to turn our attentions to something more specific than just being in the game, as it were.

Perhaps it's as much a matter of nobody really being equally good at everything, so we gravitate to something that is comfortable and seems worth the fight it is going to take to stay there.

To an outsider, it may seem crazy. Folks could not understand why one kind of photography turned me right off, whereas another made me ecstatic; to them, photography was photography.

Petrus

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Re: The Decisive Moment
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2019, 05:02:13 pm »

My mother bought me film developing tank and chemicals, and a contact printing lightbox (for 6x6) to keep me off the streets (so to speak) when I was 13. Then enlarger. Camera was my father's Ljubitel from the fifties.

Year book photographer during my foreign exchange year in Santa Paula, Ca, class of 1972. Saved all my pennies and bought a Canon FTb!

Started to study mechanical engineering in Helsinki University of Technology, but only read photo magazines in the comprehensive library (well over 1000 magazines were subscribed there). They even had the original Scientific American with the trotting horse on the cover!

I applied to the University of Art and Design to study photography and was actually accepted (5 out of 164 it was that year). Started freelancing on the side, engineering studies went to back burner.

Summer apprentice in a large national newspaper 1978. In October they asked if I could come to work for 2 weeks, as they had run out of staff photographers (several accidents in various parts of the country). I said "I can come if you hire me for the rest of the year and pay full union wage". Done deal. Next January I continued as full staff photographer with sizeable bonus.

3 years later I decided to quit and start free lancing again, without any preparations. Good times, local newspaper, bank and co-op magazines with huge circulations, good pay. Went to travel in Asia for 7 months with wife, pictures paying our way. Got assignments from the leading weekly newsmagazine, won the "news photographer of the year" award for them in 1984, first color reportage to get the title. Staff photographer for them from 1985 onwards.

Interesting times: Yemen, Amazonia, China, USA, South Africa, all Europe with collapsing communism starting from Gdansk in 1980 to Kosovo independence. Have sailed on an icebreaker with Indira Gandhi and flown in a jet piloted by his son Rajiv. Bumped into Deng Xiaoping in Datong by accident, met him in Beijing later also. Couple of US presidents, all Finnish ones from Kekkonen onwards, sat on the back yard of Sam Nujoma's mother in Namibia drinking beer with her and him. Spent time in Mosul with US troops.

Last 15 years have seen changes for the worse. Digital cameras, also video, are wondrous, but the business side started to get ugly. Saving money, no travel, everything pre-designed, no more "free reportage" type assignments. Time to retire, got out before the ship started really sinking (circulations have dropped 70%). Used to have 28 in photo department (even after the lab was dismantled), now there are 7, only 5 photographers in the whole company (some 20 magazines), we used to have 3 staff photographers in just our magazine alone, 4 large studios, now none.

1954 was a good year to be born as a photojournalist, even though I did not know it then. Earned my first money when I was 5 years old selling sauna dried hops to the local pharmacy: 300 silver marks (now equal to about $4), but that was not to be my career.



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JoeKitchen

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Re: The Decisive Moment
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2019, 03:31:08 pm »

I was always interested in photography but never so much to want to develop a career in it when in high school.  I went to a liberal arts college and needed to take a studio art course as a requirement and took photography.  On the first day, my professor showed us his camera, an 8x10 field camera. 

I was very intrigued, especially since I thought these things were of a bygone era. 

That summer I bought a 4x5 to fool around with and the rest in history. 
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Joe Kitchen
www.josephmkitchen.com

"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
“Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  William Faulkner
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