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Paternal Photographic Influences?

Mackinac Bridge Mackinac City, MI Copyright  2012  Andy Richards

Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac City, MI
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Since it is Father’s day, I thought some reflections on my father might be appropriate. My dad was not a “photographer.” At least not the way I think of myself as a “photographer.” He shot pictures, and owned cameras, but for him it was more for shooting images of his travels, and documenting things (I remember seeing photos – cannot remember whether he took them or just had them – of the Mackinac Bridge being built) families, etc. So, other than very indirectly, how do I tie in those paternal influences to my photography today? The nice thing about a blog is that it does not have to have scholarly, essay-quality content. So today’s blog will be more of an extemporaneous reflection-generated piece.  Often, as I photograph something, thoughts of dad come to mind.  For many years, he served as the Engineer for Mackinaw County.  I remember going there with him sometimes as a young boy.  The bridge “connects” that memory up.

I cannot help but think that some of his “process” rubbed off on me

There is no doubt that the people we grow up around influence who we are and how we think as adults. And there is perhaps nobody more influential than parents. I had the great misfortune of not having my own mother for most of my life, as she sadly died when her children were quite young (OTOH, I had the good fortune to have my second mother – for most of my life – still living today and still influencing all of us). But my dad was always there, and always influential, up until the end of his life in 2008.  Thanks, dad, for that.

Dad was an engineer, with an engineer’s mind. I am not

Dad was an engineer, with an engineer’s mind. I am not. But I cannot help but think that some of his “process” rubbed off on me. He loved tools of every kind and nature, and had a keen appreciation for finely crafted tools. And one of the things he drummed into me was that when someone takes the time and effort to create a finely made item, it is a matter of husbandry to care for it properly. I know photographers for whom it is almost a point of pride to reflect on their beat-up equipment.  Not me.  I am equally proud that I have been able to maintain the like new condition of my equipment.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get used (and therefore owns some wear and tear from that use).  Almost every item of photographic gear of my own still looks the way it did when I bought it. I baby it. I take special care of it. Maybe to a fault.  I think the equipment deserves that.  Maybe more important than the care, was inheriting a small portion of his “mechanical” abilities.  Because of that legacy, I have been able to do a lot of my own work, framing, matting and mounting my own images.  Thanks, dad for that.

Some Tools for DIY Matting and Framing

Some Tools for DIY Matting and Framing

When we were kids, dad had an 8mm wind-up movie camera. Sometimes, he used to set it up on Christmas morning. As adults, we have had some fun watching those movies (now repurposed for digital viewing). He also made a few hundred 35mm slides during his military days in Korea and Okinawa. They are mostly memory snapshots (unfortunately, today – mostly his memories, which sadly left him in his early 70’s), but still fun to look at and see where he was and what he was doing. And maybe, as a young person, seeing those images influenced something subconsciously, to stimulate the inner drive to shoot that was to surface years later. So, again, thanks for that, dad.

Dad’s Asahiflex 35mm SLR was my first “serious” camera

If you have ventured into the tabs at the top of the blog, and slogged your way through “My Story” (the “about me” section of the blog), you will have read about perhaps my dad’s only direct influence on my photographic journey. When he was stationed in Okinawa back in the early 1950’s, he became acquainted with a local resident who owned and ran a department store (for those who even remember what those are). His friend was able to assist him in purchasing a 35mm film-based camera. The 35mm format Single Lens Reflex camera (SLR) – which would soon become the most popular media for shooters in history, was fairly new phenomena at that time. The Japanese, Asahi Optical Company (pre-cursor of the Pentax branded SLR), manufactured a small, 35mm SLR. Dad bought a kit with 55mm and 235mm, screw-mount interchangeable lenses. The were finely manufactured, solid, quality metal (probably stainless steel), with clear, crisp optics. When I shared a sudden and newfound interest in photography, my dad gave me the outfit (which he had not used in years). I made some nice images with that camera, but in some idiotic manner, no longer have them. But that camera was my first “serious” piece of photographic gear. And so began my own personal photographic development (pun intended, of course). So, really thanks dad, for that!

Of all of the things I remember about dad, his sense of humor was perhaps the most vivid and meaningful.  He had a dry, occasionally playful, and sometimes sarcastic sense of humor.  I think I may have inherited most, if not all of that, and whenever possible, try to incorporate it into life — and into some of my imagery.  Dad was also a deeply religious man.  I like to think he would have enjoyed the sign pictured here.  Thanks, Dad.

Sometimes signs can just be funny Knock, Ireland Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sometimes signs can just be funny
Knock, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Dad wasn’t ever a vociferous political person (grandpa was, and dad was an only child, and they saw “eye-to-eye” on most everything, so I could extrapolate his views). But his native conservatism made it likely that he would influence his children’s political views. 6 of 7 of his children are moderate to conservative. One is liberal (which shows that “influence” doesn’t necessarily result in parallel views). But I became politically interested in my college years, spent some time in Washington, D.C., and made some memoreable (though not so artful) images while I was there. I’m pretty sure he approved of Ronald Reagan. More indirect influence? Thanks, dad.

Reagan Bush Campaign 1982 Copyright Andy Richards 1982

Reagan Bush Campaign 1982
Copyright Andy Richards 1982

Where am I going with all this? Not sure. It’s a blog, which means its o.k. to ramble. And even if its not o.k. to ramble, its my blog, so I can. 🙂

I guess I am just saying, “Thanks Dad.”


2 Responses

  1. This is a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I miss him and your grandparents. Such wonderful people! You have been blessed beyond measure with your family.

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