When I was 7 or 8 years old, my grandfather said I could “play” with his Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera. I immediately went up and down our Sparrows Point Street lifting the hood on all our neighbor’s cars and photographing the engine. The hood on a 1959 Dodge was quite the lift for such a young boy! But I knew what I wanted, and the obstacle of that Dodge hood wasn’t going to stop me.
In my 43 years as a professional photojournalist, I often had to overcome obstacles much more formidable than that heavy Dodge hood. I didn’t let my fear of heights stop me from climbing to the top of George Washington’s head to make photographs from Mount Rushmore, nor stop me from standing on top of a forest ranger tower to photograph a fire-watch using binoculars in the window below. The word “NO” was an obstacle that had to be carefully moved out of the way almost a daily.
Now, working mostly in Black & White film, I no longer face the expectations of editors and publications and their deadlines. In photojournalism it was often easy to ‘score’ your work against others, because at nearly any given moment, everyone worked in the same medium, often at the same event. With this sort of large, but contained group of peers and publications, quality and creativity rose to the top. But large format B&W is different. It is often solitary work and the en-masse, daily comparisons don’t exist. So, now, I’m the one that I work to satisfy. As I work more with B&W and these huge cameras, I am critical of my own results. I am thankful to the serious photographers, both in the past and contemporary, who left a pathway to follow. It is often a path not just of their mechanicals and processes, but of their creative vision of photography. Many have left a high bar. Another wonderful obstacle.
To view this artists images, along with the full Monalog show – Visit Gallery 270
Here’s our discussion with Mel during our recent webinar with the Monalog Collective. The entire webinar is available here.
The full Monalog Collective Webinar featuring all the artists can be watched here.
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