A Lifelong Pursuit of Photography

I began my photography the summer I graduated from The Gow School, a school that specialized in teaching dyslexics reading and spelling techniques.  I saved all summer long to buy my first 35mm SLR film camera.  The year was 1976 long before digital cameras were invented.

During the summer of 1978 after I left Ashland College (today it’s known as Ashland University) because they told me I could not pursue my chosen major in Radio & TV since I could not pass the foreign language requirement, I attended a basic photography and darkroom class held at The Cleveland Instituted of Art, CIA for short.  I felt at home in the darkroom developing and printing B&W film.  My daily commute to CIA was via the public transit bus down Mayfield Road from Lyndhurst, Ohio through Little Italy on Murray Hill to University Circle the home of Case Western Reserve, University Hospital, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.  The city bus was filled with a world unknown to me having grown up in Shaker Heights, Ohio and living my high school years in the very isolated rural town of South Wales, New York.  It was a great time of my life.

During the following six years, I pursued photography.  I apprenticed with several photographers, dabbled in model and wedding photography, won entries into several photography contests and had two shows.  By 1984, my aspirations had grown too large for the small Midwest City of Cleveland, Ohio.  The cities that were producing photography that I aspired to were: New York City, too large; Chicago, too Midwest; and Los Angeles.  L.A. promised a world of bright colours the complete opposite of the dreary rusting city that I found myself in.  Having only worked with B&W photography I was starving to learn colour.  Plus with only a small 650 Honda Nighthawk motorcycle for transportation, L.A. was more inviting.

For the next four years, 1984 – 1988 I worked at Elmi Graphics in the heart of Hollywood, located in the old Citizen News building between Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard on Wilcox Avenue.  Elmi’s produced photo-composites using die-transfer and Cibachrome printing technics for the entertainment industry.  I worked exclusively with Cibachrome.  Talk about learning colour photography!  Not only did I work with some of the best images in Hollywood, I got to push and experiment with the boundaries of the photographic medium whether it was the film or the print.  To date, this was the very best job I have had.  As in life all things shall pass, and with the advent of the MAC and Photoshop, and turning Thirty, I saw the writing on the wall, and left L.A.  I ended up in Kent Ohio to begin my final attempt at achieving my undergraduate degree, this time in Psychology.

My time in Kent, Ohio provided a much needed return to a place filled with farms, lush landscapes and remnants of a simpler life than L.A.  While there I explored and experimented with different photographic softening techniques.  I used a technique I learned from Robert Farber of applying hairspray to the lens filter and pushing the ASA (today known as ISO) of Ektachrome 64 to 1600.  This produced a grainy yet soft image.  I also converted my Sinar F-1 4×5 view camera to take pinhole photographs which also provided a soft image.  My Northeast Ohio and Organic series emerged from this work.

My photography essentially stopped when I graduated and left Kent in 1992.  I spent my time and energy searching for a paying occupation.  In addition, with digital photography emerging, I only saw the end of photography as I knew it.

In 1995, after establishing a budding career in IT, I bought Photoshop and digitized many of the images I captured while in Kent.  I was captivated by what Photoshop could do and that I could now print my own images without a darkroom.  By early 1998, Ernst & Young, and Parker Hannifin had purchased a few of my NE Ohio Series which were inkjet prints on 300 lbs. cold press watercolor paper.

From 1999 to 2018 my IT career and life took center stage.  For most of that time photography was straddling between film and digital cameras.  Film was still king but the image quality of the digital cameras were slowly making gains.  Around 2002 the first full-frame digital cameras began to be produced.

At the end of 2008 I felt I was in a place where I could resigned from IT to pursue other life goals and occupations that held more interest to me before reaching retirement.  In 2010 I reentered the photographic world with aspirations of taking portraits, real estate photographs, and even weddings.  I bought my first digital SLR camera, the Canon 5D Mark II.  I found it to be an amazing camera.  Not only did it take still images, but it was the first full frame SLR camera that took video.  Remember that I left college because I wasn’t allowed to major in Radio & TV.  Well, with the 5D Mark II’s great video capabilities, I concentrated on my very first aspirations to work in Radio & TV, or simply video.  I spent my efforts pursuing that desire.  I began to make short two minute testimonials for the Cherry Creek Toastmasters which I was a member.  That led to an opportunity to make a documentary about four women and twelve crewmembers as they raced across America in 2012.  I loved every second of that project.  Unfortunately, in 2013 as I completed the editing of the 90 minute documentary, my savings showed that once again my photography was not sustainable.  I went back to IT and this time ironically Mobile TV Group, a TV related company hired me to manage their IT infrastructure.

In 2018 retirement was five to ten years away.  It was time to get serious about what I have pursued my entire life, photography, but this time, no videos, no portraits, no real estate photographs but landscapes, fine art photography, the stuff that inspired me in my twenties.

JSH

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