“To photograph is to confer importance.” (Susan Sontag)


 

My good friend Suzanne has requested a blog about photography and I am only too happy to oblige. To fully understand how much photography has been part of my life you have to realize that I was born one month before my Dad opened his graphic arts company in 1954. While my classmates were learning the letter F, I was more concerned with F-stops. I thought redlight darkrooms were a great place to hide and carbon arc lights were scary. Nobody I knew, ever got to play with razor blades, Exacto knives and scissors but my Dad expected me to use them all properly. I learned words like contrast, focal point, cropping and greyscale in grade school and I still think in those terms.

Unfortunately, none of my training really had anything to do with 35mm photography and I didn’t get into that until my senior year of college. My folks gave me a Nikkormat EL for my 22nd birthday and an early graduation present. My camera and I became inseparable partners immediately and I never went anywhere without it, except the restroom. In those days, Kodachrome was the gold standard for slide film and I bought rolls by the carton. I only had one lens, a 35mm Nikkor, which was roughly the equivalent to normal field of view but that didn’t stop me. If my lens wasn’t suited to the shot, I just hiked that much closer.  I spent hours scrambling over and around obstacles trying my best to emulate Ansel Adams.

In 1976, after graduation, I relocated to New York City and my camera became my best friend, as I had few others. In my free time away from my job I went looking for anything worth shooting. The big city was full of  art and architecture and I made full use of its variety. It was a little more difficult to find my favorite subject, nature it all its wonder, because I had to travel farther away from the city. Long Island had some pretty locations and the ocean was great for a kid from Kansas, but upstate New York was just what I needed. I hiked in the Catskills and along the Hudson River and found shots that were every bit as wonderful as I had left behind in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

When you’re far away from home and feeling  lonely, a camera sure helps start conversations, especially with women. Every time one of them asked, “Nice camera, are you a photographer?” I lied and said, “Yes, I am. Can I take your picture?” Almost every girl I dated in my year and a half away from home started out with that simple question. I wasn’t really lying, I had a camera and film and I knew how to push the button but in my heart I knew I was stretching the truth just a little.  Funny though, they never seemed to care about my camera skills. I guess for most girls, nice blue eyes can make up for lack of expertise more often than not.

The thing I have always loved about photography is the ability to tell stories without words. When I bring that viewfinder to my eye, I’m thinking about what this shot is telling me and then I focus on what is most important about the shot that tells the story. Framing a shot seems to come naturally to me or maybe it’s just all those other great shots I saw in my Dad’s shop that influenced my style. I can’t really describe exactly what it takes to make a great photograph but I always know one when I see it. Here’s a few of my favorites that will give you the best example of how I work with my camera.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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2 Responses to “To photograph is to confer importance.” (Susan Sontag)

  1. Suzanne says:

    Another great post! Thanks for this, Guy! XOXO

  2. Steve Smith says:

    Guy,

    I read your essay with interest. Thanks for sharing your memories and lessons learned while working with your father.

    Thanks, too, for sharing your photos. Looks like you’ve kept an open eye during your long and eventful journey. Your technical detail in focus, depth of field, color and light balance is exceptional and the artistry of your perspective brings the viewer close to the subject.

    I knew you were a good student when we were in school together, now it looks like you’re a pretty good teacher, too.

    Carry on. Cheers.

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