Digging My Photo Roots

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August 13th, 2011

In many real and wonderful ways, not being a professional photojournalist any more allows me to be a real photographer once again. For three decades I made my livelihood in the journalism business and ever since it came to an end, more than two years ago, I have been slowly reconnecting to my roots. The […]

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In many real and wonderful ways, not being a professional photojournalist any more allows me to be a real photographer once again. For three decades I made my livelihood in the journalism business and ever since it came to an end, more than two years ago, I have been slowly reconnecting to my roots.

The minute I was pushed out the Free Press doors, I began looking for a decent camera. A young cop on craigslist had just what I needed; a used Nikon 700. We met at a bookstore to make the exchange, money for megapixels, (if you’re a young reader, bookstores are places where people used to congregate and buy bound copies of words printed with ink on paper).

Even though it was used and it’s now about three years old, I just noticed today that Nikon still lists it as one of their top — albeit cheapest — professional models. I share this fact for a reason; but right now I’m at a loss for what that reason is.

When a fascinating request came in for Marci to photograph a senior portrait with graffiti in the background, we decided to drive around Detroit looking for safe, but well-tagged walls in advance of the shoot. As any good parent would do, we brought the girls with us, and some of their friends.

We ventured not too far from safe and secure locales, finding empty fields and litter-strewn/cracked sidewalks where dog poo and broken glass were the biggest problems. Obviously keeping an eye out for danger, we emptied the van of teens and gear and shot some really eye-catching, urban scenes. Marci’s pictures and composition, as usual, turned out far better than mine, but I held my own.

The pictures were looking pretty nice on the backs of our cameras so we decided to try more places. Remembering the cool, artsy beauty of The Heidelberg Project, we drifted over that way. Our luck was shining as we ran into Tyree Guyton, the artist responsible for Heidelberg. Watching us shoot our daughters, he strolled up to make sure we weren’t doing this for some glitzy publication which would exploit him, or worse, make money using his artwork. When he was satisfied we were just having fun, he actually invited us to participate.

Skye was asked to “reimagine the dot” as Tyree put it. He gave her a can of paint to create the latest circle on his flowing streetscape. He then invited us into one of the houses along the block to add our individual chalk-scrawled messages to the walls. It was an amazing counterpoint for us. We started out taking pictures; we ended by leaving artwork behind.

https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcSkyecomposite.jpgJust messing around with photography somehow resonates deep inside of me with a feeling I can’t quite describe. It’s a craft I used to fall asleep every night thinking about when I was a kid and now the passion burns again. I’m soothed by that feeling. Especially in counterpoint to a photo friend who recently mentioned how fed up he is with photography. I trust very soon he’ll stumble onto the golden moments that keep you coming back, like a golfer who nails the perfect drive. Hopefully, for him, unemployment won’t be his catalyst.

Several of my photo friends have found other callings that have pulled them away from their original craft. Some of the state’s best photographers are now jewelry designers, web producers or unemployed, like me. But I’m guessing there’s always a camera somewhere nearby them, metaphorically or otherwise.

I’m lucky. I’ve found writing, health and parenting as other passions. I realize it’s rare to have that many things that keep your motor running and push you out of bed in the morning. I thank the cosmos for that. Oh, friendship too. I thank all of you who’ve allowed me to be dopey, deep, depressed or downright Rodney.

You’ve put up with a lot from me, but hopefully you too have taken as much as you’ve left.

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