February is your month…Happy 286th Birthday George !
My career in photography began unexpectedly in late 1981 when a friend brought me to a Connecticut Professional Photographers Association meeting as a guest. I soon joined the association where Gary Wnek and I were chosen to intern for Stelcar Studios, a busy Portrait and Wedding studio in East Hartford CT. The studio owners to this day are like a brother and sister to me, however, it did not take long for me to grow tired of shooting weddings. Gary became a terrific wedding photographer for the studio and thankfully for me the studio owners realized I related better to subjects that did not speak and began pursuing commercial and illustration work to keep me occupied. They hired several different illustration photographers to educate me in lighting technique as well as the operation of a large format camera. I continued to make large format black and white images of the landscape for personal work. In a few short years I made a name for myself within the greater New England professional associations for my Black and White technique, that technique and vision was quickly advanced by my mentor and friend of 35 years, Jack Holowitz.
Xenophon Beake was one of the illustration photographers I studied with in those early years. He was a nationally known commercial photographer and teacher at various Professional Photographers of America schools. In 1994 he was in charge of the Commercial Industrial Division of the PP of A and he asked if I would present a program about my Black & White photography and technique at the Professional Photographers of America’s Annual Convention in Denver, CO. I had presented several programs at the state and regional level but never to a national audience so I welcomed the challenge and the opportunity to go West !
I took my youngest son with me for a 10-day camping trip to various locations within driving distance of Denver. One of those locations was Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. My son and I arrived at Mt. Rushmore by mid morning and did the tourist thing for a short while. I had no real interest in making a Large Format negative of a view that the world has seen scores of times especially during mid day light. After visiting the tourist site we got in the car and headed away and came around a corner on a main road and saw Washington’s profile jutting out all by itself ! I knew in an instant there was a unique image to be made and quickly went about setting up the 5×7 Deardorff camera in spite of the harsh mid day sunlight. I have always been attracted to triangular shapes in my compositions and this image has many choose from. I don’t recall the lens used, but do remember hiking up as high as possible to diminish as much convergence that would result from pointing the camera upward. The negative was exposed mid morning, a time of day I almost never make photographs, nevertheless, the light on Washington’s face resembles that of Rembrandt lighting so in that sense it does add some interest to the photograph.
Wikipedia offers the following information about the Monument. Between October 4, 1927, and October 31, 1941, American born sculptor Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the colossal 60 ft. high carvings of the four Presidents, which represented the first 130 years of American history. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory up to that point in time. Various locations were under consideration and ultimately this Southeast-facing cliff was chosen for maximum sun exposure and also the high-grade of existing granite.
With my program only a few days away an interesting story presented itself while my son Scott and I headed back down towards Denver. The 5 day Convention had already begun and many PP of A photographers from around the country were beginning to come into the Denver area. A day or so before I am to give my program I am out with Scott and I stop at a roadside stream seen below.
I’m on the side of the road, cut off jeans, old T-shirt and not looking very scholarly to anyone. I had the 5×7 Deardorff wooden camera out ready to make an image and around the corner in a fancy rental car comes a photographer from Michigan, sees the big camera and stops his car. Jumps out of the car, nicely dressed comes over to see the old fashion type camera that I use, black cloth over my head and large single sheets of film. Scott’s close by as the fellow comes over and starts talking to me while I’m working to get my shot, he inquires, Black and White ?? I love Black and White he goes on. I’m not too interested in talking to him so I go about getting my shot completed. He begins talking to my son Scott, I don’t care for him talking with my young son while I’m under a dark cloth so I stop and go over and he starts telling me he’s in town for the “big convention”. Tells me he’s a successful commercial photographer back in Michigan, got all this fancy equipment, on and on about having a successful studio in the Commercial / Industrial field of photography, how I should get involved with some of the programs at the Convention to advance my craft !
With that, I’d had enough of him talking down to me in front of my son and I say yes I’m in town for the Convention as well ! I extent my hand and say, I’m Steve Sherman you should come to my program, it’s all about Black and White and we can chat further. Kind of a stunned look on his face he says, “oh yes I read about you, your program is one of the ones that carries a small additional charge” over the usual convention programming fee to the membership. Finally he tells me, this is his first PP of A convention and he’s not going to any of the programs that carry a surcharge. I never saw the guy again !
As John Lennon wrote, “instant karma’s gonna get you” !!
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