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From the Publisher's Desk – Image captures words for future (Jan. 13, 2016 issue)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I don’t know that each one holds that much value, but it is fascinating to freeze time with the snap of a shutter.
I got interested in photography with the start of college, took a few classes and fell in love with it. Unlike today’s cell phones and digital images, this was the real thing. There were no display screens to preview the image that had just been captured. Light meters were used to calculate proper f-stops and shutter speeds. The correct angle was determined and numerous images exposed onto a roll of film.
Anticipation would build until the film was developed, dried and printed into photographs. Sometimes it was even better than anticipated, while other times it fell short of the result expected.
Still, my interest was peaked and I continued classes along with my journalism courses and, eventually, ended up with a double major in both. I had several cameras for my black and white classes, color slide classes, large format photography and studio.
I purchased an older camera, used mostly for photo journalism in the 1950s, the kind with a big flash arm on the side. This camera used a large single sheet of film at a time and had a shade box on the back to peep into for framing the image. It was also best if used with a tri-pod due to its weight.
I had a marvelous instructor named Joel Leivick, who inspired me. The class would go on field trips all over the area. I recall we went to Spruce Pine, Spivey and a home in Shelton Laurel. He knew a family that lived there in a somewhat modern/primitive environment. They turned their entire place over to us to roam and photograph. Joel recently retired from Stanford University in California. We’ve kept in touch through e-mail.
At one point I decided I needed a darkroom at home and continued to enjoy the hobby until I became chief photographer for a span at The Erwin Record. So much “exposure” to a fun thing can “develop” into burn out.
Many of my classes were shared with a dear friend, Ron Campbell, who went on to work several years with the Johnson City Press. Ron and I did an outing one day after graduating. We met up and went to an old house in the county that was barely visible for the overgrown shrubs hiding the facade.
A neighbor saw us looking around the two-story, white frame. He came out and told us he was watching the home for the family, who lived away. He was a tall, stocky man, with deep eyes and a face that seemed to bring a bit of uneasiness to us. Nevertheless, we asked if we could photograph the old home and possibly look inside. He agreed, but stayed close at hand the entire time.
The home seemed as if a family just got up one day, decided to leave, took nothing and walked away. Antique furniture sat in place, awaiting their return. Dust covered everything and cobwebs stretched from object to object, giving travel to the spiders, who were the new tenants.
Our tour guide seemed like he might have a few cobwebs as well. Maybe we had seen too many movies, but we kept waiting for a large knife or chainsaw to appear in his hands.
Ron and I both snapped away with photos to capture the surroundings. Who knows, someone might even need them as evidence if we turned up missing.
Ron had the bright idea to turn and pose the home’s watchman. It seemed to flatter him and hopefully put us on his good side. He even allowed us to proceed upstairs.
On the second floor we found an old trunk and stacks of family photos. Was it the family who currently owned the home or a family from the home’s past? We didn’t know, but there were lots of them and in great quality.
This caused me to think of my family and the relatives I had known and some who were only a name without a face. I would love to see photographs of them. Surely someone would appreciate this collection if they only knew it exists.
Whether it is by cell phone, digital or old school cameras, let me encourage you to make all the photographs you can. I see some come in to put an ad in the paper in memory of a loved one and all they have is the driver’s license image. If they have another photo, often times it is very small, blurred and distorted. I have often thought of how sad that someone lives an entire lifetime and yet there is nothing more to document their time here than a tiny, blurred image.
The problem for me now is the digital era. I have lots and lots of photographs on my computer but hardly any printed out to physically flip through. We have many albums of old photographs at home. Photos remind me of happy trips or gatherings. They document a walk through times past. I briefly get to relive those moments by viewing the pictures.
I see photography as magical. It’s an amazement that gives us the very special gift of memory frozen in time. When our minds are slipping on details of an event, special friend or loved one, the photograph won’t let us down. It remembers for us and sparks our thoughts when viewed.
Of course, there is one draw back to having a lot of photographs lying around, one day when you are gone and forgotten, you may end up on a Cracker Barrel wall. Customers will stare in amazement at your fine characters, outdated wardrobe and hairstyle. They will wonder what your life was like Your photograph may tell them a thousand words.