In 1965, while serving in the Marine Corps, a friend loaned his camera to me. From the moment I held it and shot a few rolls I somehow felt a connection, a then uncertain joy. After the service I attended CSULB, graduating with a degree in Philosophy. I continued to make photographs and soon converted our bathroom into a darkroom. I was hooked.
Over the next forty years, my family followed my corporate career, living on both coasts and, for and extended time, in the mid-west. After graduate school and a career managing manufacturing businesses that limited my photography efforts, I now devote most of my time to making photographs, a joy no longer uncertain.
Photography reconnects me to my beginnings and who I once was. My Midwestern family and friends included blacksmiths, railroad men, barkeeps, farmers, industrial line workers, and clerks. Few had educations beyond high school. These folks worked hard and stayed close to their birthplace.
I was one of the few that left. However, fifty years of the Marine Corps, university, and corporate life gave me the feeling that I did not belong, loosed from the moorings of my past and uncomfortable in my new life. I traded the familiarity of a small town to the anonymity of the city. Either can kill the soul. Both can provide comfort.
Unfortunately one cannot go back.
Modern urban environments reconnect me to the folks with whom I lived, loved, and laughed. The settings differ, but the players are much the same. Everyday people leading everyday lives crowd these streets. If I cannot return to what once was, I can at least use my camera to get closer, to somehow make a connection, however fleeting.
With my corporate life complete, I am free to walk and make photographs, while exploring today’s hectic cities, among those who feel familiar to me.
“Perhaps instead of standing at the river’s edge scooping out water, it’s better to be in the current itself, to watch how the river comes up to you, flows smoothly around your presence, and forms again on the other side like you were never there.”
Photographer Paul Graham