I have been hanging out with photographers since high school, and it proves, if nothing else, that there is some validity to the axiom, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Like cops who hang out with cops, or college professors who hang out with college professors, I have always sought the company of other photographers. It hasn’t always been easy; I am the only actual news photographer in my community. But some of my best friends like Michael, and my lovely wife, are photographers.
At Eisenhower High School I was cloistered with several photographers in a narrow room at the end of the building. That darkroom had a concrete sink, the likes of which I haven’t seen since. Chip, Kevin, Gary and I crowded in there and talked about the magic of photography, which, except for one day-long failed experiment, was black-and-white. There were few things that fascinated me as a teenager as much as the ambiance of discovery as my 8×10 glossy developed before my eyes under the ubiquitous Kodak OC-amber safelight.
In college there were more people with cameras. That’s where I met Scott and Robert, the Mormons from Tulsa, and Bill the physicist, who would buy me a pizza just for the chance to talk cameras. David the AP photographer got me some stringer jobs, and from there I went to my first newspaper, the Shawnee News-Star. I worked the night shift, and Ed worked days. He had been shooting pictures for a living since returning from Vietnam, and is still there to this day. I worked with a big jolly guy named Harold for a while before I came to Ada, where I have been for nearly 21 years.
I still find photographers who will hang out with me. Jim, Paul, Steve, Doug, and Ann, the gang at the Daily Oklahoman, are always a welcome sight on the sidelines. I run into Kelly from the Tulsa paper sometimes, too. And I always made time to find Steve from the Ardmoreite on the opposite sideline during the traditional Ada-Ardmore football rivalry in August.
Lately I have been running into Wil C. Fry more and more. Until recently he’s been the sports editor and photographer for the nearby Seminole newspaper for seven or eight years, and though he claims to be very shy, I always made it a point to strike up conversation with him when we were both covering the same games. When Abby and I learned that he and his charming wife Marline were moving away this summer, we made a point to invite them to dinner, and they came to our home in Byng last night. Since we are all photographers to some degree, there was, of course, photography. Among other things, Wil and I made the circuit around our country patch at last light to photograph the wildflowers, the barns, the rusty gates, whatever we could find. He really seemed to like the images he was getting.
I feel that same way when my students and I got into the field to make pictures, like it is summoning some distant and constant memory of being with photographers and making pictures. I don’t know; maybe race car drivers talk about octane and steering ratios when they get together. I can tell you that when photographers get together, it’s an opportunity to get out of our little vacuum and see what others like us are doing. It’s a little Socratic, I guess; we walk the plaza discussing our philosophies. It is an exchange of creative energy in which I am always glad to participate.