Heading in the fall to the Saguaro Desert near Tucson with my dear friend Bill Fortney. We’ll be teaching together at the MNLP-Masters of Nature and Landscape Photography. The title of this symposium weekend is surely true of Bill. Given the pandemic pause in all our lives, we haven’t seen each other for some time. But I hark back to when he helped me out.
I’ve always loved to photograph industry. How do they make stuff? Is the factory cool? Unusual? Sparks, steam? Heavy industry has always been the stuff of fascinating photography. And the camera has always honored labor. Hard work, and the people who engage in it. First time I went to China, in the late 80’s, it was a highly controlled visit, as I was representing an American magazine, Sports Illustrated. The Chinese authorities asked me if I would like to tour somewhere.
I had done my research, and I asked to go to a locomotive factory near to Beijing. (China’s trains are legendary.) This request was meant with a measure of consternation. “Perhaps the Great Wall?” I stuck with my ask.
So, when I needed to go to a coal mine, I called Bill Fortney. He’s not only a mentor and a close friend, but for part of his career, he was a coal mining photographer.
Bill placed his trust in me to go to a mine in the heart of coal country, south eastern Kentucky. A photog from the big city could easily have been looked at sideways a bit, but I found a warm welcome, and willing subjects. At least if I moved fast. At the end of a shift under the earth, the men were anxious to pose and go.
In addition to the intro, Bill also was my test subject for the lighting grid.
Bill, Jack Graham, and John Pederson recently invited me on a wonderful podcast, We Talk Photo, to have a lively chat about picture making, and Bill recalled the coal mine shoot fondly.
I’ll be teaching along with Scott Kelby, who brings both amazing photography skills and post production magic to the party. I’ll be teaching and talking about storytelling in the field, camera in hand, and also notions about sustaining as a viable photography career over the long haul of a career. Called The Masters of Nature and Landscape Photography Symposium, it’ll be a formative, enriching photography event, set in a beautiful place.
A place so lovely the skies and the landscapes command you stay above ground. As opposed to the mine, where darkness, drama and intense work occur, thousands of feet below the surface.
Tip of the hat to Bill for having the confidence in me to introduce me, as a stranger, to this world under the earth. And kudos to hard working people everywhere.
More tk, and hopefully, see you in the desert!
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