Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sherpa Sue

Pebbles from my picture of my dad's print in which Pebbles is 4 times life size and every hair of hers is clearly visible. My father prided himself on how sharp all his photos were. He refused to print any of mine that were not.
My father devoted all his spare time to photography. He specialized in large format landscapes and animals. Every vacation was devoted to driving all over the country and Canada to take the right shots at the right time. He was especially fond of Lake Louise in Alberta. He entered many competitions and won. In the 50s and 60s, many photo supply stores had  friezes of 16x20 black and white prints sponsored by Kodak. Of the 20 or so displayed, usually there would be at least 3 or 4 of my father's. Technically, he was very competent; artistically: not so much. I worked for a man who was an 'artistic' photographer on the side. He had shows around the country and his photos were sold in galleries. Of course they managed to bump into each other (my two worlds colliding) and didn't have much good to say about the other. My father dismissed my boss as 'artsy-fartsy'. But overall, my father probably earned much more money selling his pictures than my boss did in the art shows and galleries. He had several agents that marketed his work to be sold as stock photography. He would receive half of the haul. I think his largest sale  netted him $3K of a scene in Banff to be used as a Canadian Club ad. He had a steady stream of checks in the mail. They would not tell him who bought the pictures but he would find them on puzzles, calenders, pet products, posters, etc. I once saw a poster of my cat hanging in Shanna's classroom. (Yeah, JP, another screaming dangling modifier for you)

  That's Pebbles!!!Didn't you notice?

Large format (4x5 film)photography means lots of large equipment that must be carried somehow. Our station wagon on these trips was filled to the brim with it and it had to loaded everyday in and out of the car. The regular luggage was carried on top. He loved to take pictures of pets. I was in charge of lighting when going to people's houses or the dog and cat shows. He would lecture me on f-stops, apertures, exposure times, depth of field and their mathematical relationships at an early age quizzing me to make sure I was paying attention. When we lived in NY, we went to at least 2 homes in which they would be characterized now as belonging to 'animal hoarders'. Those people in particular thought of themselves as 'animal rescuers' giving me detailed accounts on how so and so was saved from certain death. The first home had more than 30 kitties in in. I remember being terrified as several of them had jumped on me at once. My father had his own parking spot at the Detroit Zoo (he supplied them with photos in return). One of the pieces I had to carry was the 'peacock mirror'. I was to place this 16x20 mirror fashioned from foil on a print mat in front of a male peacock enticing him to strut his feathers in some testosterone frenzy at its image while my father got the shot.
Another of my chores was to type up his articles for photography magazines. I tried to edit them as he would write 'this works pretty good'. But he was paid for them and they were published. Of course I am a 'published author ' too (google me) but I think my company needed to pay someone for this to happen.
He printed his own black and white photos to in a darkroom in the basement. I helped him 'dodge': which is using this red cellophane wands over too white areas so they wouldn't look bleached out upon printing.

When he retired, he started a photographic equipment business specializing in special filters that he manufactured himself. If he had more business sense, this would have been more profitable than it was. After his death, the stock photography agents returned boxes upon boxes of unsold transparencies to me. As some of them are of family members, I don't want to throw them out just yet. Digital photography really put an end to his stock business.

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