Monday, April 28, 2008

Black & White Photo Gallery

Photography is endeared subject that has fascinated me since youth. From an early age I viewed my family's photos thousands of times and treated them as prized possessions. As objects of my obsession I have always viewed photographs as treasured artistic compositions, similar to the relevance of a great painting, famed sculpture or perhaps even a memorable phonograph record. Those combined artifacts capture moments which are locked into time capsules and preserved forever. Perhaps I inherited that notion from my Mother who was a career librarian and fond of the historical preservation of great works. Yet, it was only until recent times that the science of photography was even considered to be of the same artistic merit as historic sculptures or paintings. Makes you wonder why it took a couple of hundred years to make that divine revelation.

Viewing photos can be a very interesting hobby. From the standpoint of being a photographer however, the photo bug bit me after coming in contact with two professionals who opened my world to the process. My first camera was purchased with money earned as the driver for photographer Steve Schapiro who was on assignment for Life Magazine during the fatal shooting of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While in Memphis, photo journalist Schapiro and L.A. Times writer Pete Johnson, who also covered the story, compensated me $250 for my guide services during the crisis. In a sense, their influence made me seriously consider a career of becoming a photographer. With money burning a hole in my pocket obtained from those services, I purchased my first camera, a Yoshika 35mm SLR. Brief details of those circumstances are listed in my April 2005 blog posting titled "Introduction to Photography."

As a young man in my early 20's, I was filled with curiosities and broad misconceptions. Growing up in the 60's during "The Age of Aquarius" was the perfect time for exploring creative endeavors. During that period I pursued music, art and photography all with equal passion. In the meantime, I'd held dozens of boring day jobs working in various fields - and despised them all. Then one day I discovered a book by photographer Diane Arbus titled " An Aperture Monograph." This ground breaking book had my head spinning and helped shape my perception of photo journalism. Man, this book was weired, creepy and intriguing all at the same time. I sat Arbus' book on my coffee table and watched the expressions of friends as they thumbed through the pages. Friends couldn't believe what they were seeing. People's mouths dropped-open while no one could put the photo book down. Upon witnessing this reaction, it struck me that finally there was a photo book that refrained from featuring pictures of people's pets, displaying endless photos of children or pages of boring floral arraignments. This text was amazing but not without controversy as this book was a break-through in the photography world. It was Diane Arbus' book that gave me the desire to venture out into the real world and explore alternative subject matter that might capture people's attention.

Some years earlier, my first attempts at photo journalism was when I would often travel just over the state line into rural Mississippi. There was a wealth of photo opportunities there as it was just like going into a time machine and turning back the clock. Most of the time I would travel by myself and explore the back roads plus enjoy the seclusion. Of all the photo opportunities that occurred on my trips to De Soto County, I believe one of my all time favorite photographs is the picture of a brother and sister standing outside a dusty drive way with a broken-down fence behind them. I can just imagine the thoughts in their heads of not knowing what to expect from this stranger who asked if he could take their picture.

"Nesbitt Kids" circa 1967 photo (c) by Phillip Rauls. More exclusive pictures from that collection can be viewed in an earlier blog posting titled "Backroads of Mississippi." (See April Archives 2005)

In 1968 there were career opportunities abound inside the musical hotbed of Memphis. During that period I got into the recording industry and was immediately surrounded with favorable photo opportunities. Upon those circumstances, not only did I begin taking photographs of rock stars but I also began collecting classic photos that might hold archive significance. After several seasons of shooting rock stars I was fortunate to land photographs published in Rolling Stone, Fusion and several other notable publications. But after reaching into my pocket in search for spare change, I came to the conclusion that trying to make living as a photographer was a challenging profession. With no shortage of talented people who were full time photographers, I put my part time ambition of being a photographer on the shelf. Since I already had a established career in the record business, I decided to just make it a hobby.

Blues-rock guitarist (above) Johnny Winter photo (c) from 1969 by Phillip Rauls. This black & white photograph was featured in an issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.

While shooting Black &White photos I learned that all subjects must hold full depth plus bold features in order to translate the effect of a non-color photograph. Here a fishing pier extends over a bass lake. Notice the grain in the wood captured here while the ripples in the water gently move from the breeze. The thick canopy of trees darkens the background and compliments the effects of a sun bleached pier.

On a trip to Los Angeles in 1975 I ventured down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood to capture this paper in a magazine rack exclusively published for swinging couples.

I can closely associate with this one as I shot this picture of a desperate photographer trying to elevate his height to stage level. The poor guy on the bottom is sweating like a pig.

No, this is not a fraternity party. This is a party celebrating Butch's birthday. In this photograph there are so many moving parts that I cannot explain all the circumstances. Oh by the way, a enlarged poster of Butch's police mug shot is posted in center of the truck while he's the one exposing his rear on the right.

Copyright (c) 2005-2010 Phillip Rauls - Rauls Media LLC