Teaching, by Britta Higgins, Scottsdale, Arizona, 2014
Britta Higgins made this striking portrait of me as part of an exercise in portraiture during her field work in a one on one tutorial. She selected an area in a nearby shopping center that was finished in rough hewn stonework. I stood in a spot where light faded into deep shadow, and I was instructing her in the use of spot metering to "paint a portrait with light and shadow." That is exactly what she does here. Britta's portrait captures my enthusiasm for teaching, which I express through gesture and expression. The colors in this image were significantly altered by the vast contrast between light and shadow in the image. I later converted her image to a light sepia tone, which removes those problematical colors and replaces them with a vintage mood, right out of the old west.
Portrait, by Kathy Khuner, Ranthambore, India, 2008
Kathy Khuner, a pbase photographer whose work can be seen at http://www.pbase.com/kjkhuner,
made this portrait of me just before leaving for a game drive through India’s Ranthambore Tiger Reserve back in 2008. (She found this image in her files and sent it on to me in 2011. I am a little older and perhaps somewhat wiser, but the essentials are the same.) I wear this outback hat for shoots in the sun. It has a cord that I use to lash it to my head while riding in windy, uncovered vehicles. It also offers a ventilated crown, which I find ideal for keeping cool. I like this portrait because it finds me relatively relaxed and comfortable in my surroundings.
Relaxation, by Connor Whooley, Phoenix, Arizona, 2010
Most of the images in this gallery were made of me either making photographs or else talking about them. In this case, my 17 year old grandson caught me over the Thanksgiving weekend relaxing at home in my favorite chair with a newspaper in hand. (A closer study shows that I am actually reading about cameras and electronics – subjects never far from my mind.) What I like most about this shot is the way Connor uses the newspaper as a reflector to bounce window light back on to my face. I am also wearing an ancient University of Michigan sweatshirt – which I traditionally don on the day of Michigan’s annual season-ending game with Ohio State. Despite Michigan’s painfully lopsided loss, I seem to have nicely recovered my equilibrium here. Photographs can say much about people, active or not. In this case it is the relative inactivity that tells the story. (I made this image by scanning a snapshot, which accounts for the lack of info on the camera used, exposure, etc.)
Sharing ideas, by Rosemarie Astwood, Boise, Idaho, 2010
Pbase artist Rosemarie Astwood ( http://www.pbase.com/sunlightpix
) made this photograph of me as I was sharing some of my photographs via my iPad at the Boise Airport. She captured not only my enthusiasm for sharing ideas, but also a bit of character as well.
Finding ghosts, by Tim May, Nevada City, Montana, 2010
I was framing a shot from between abandoned freight cars near the Nevada City ghost town when my friend pbase artist Tim May made this image of me. Tim uses the rail cars to abstract most of me – they show the wear and tear of time, which was exactly what I was searching for in my own shot.
The teacher, by Rusty Latshaw, Phoenix, Arizona, 2009
Rusty Latshaw ( http://www.pbase.com/russellt
) has traveled from Pennsylvania to Arizona four times since 2006 to work with me in my one on one tutorial training sessions. He made dozens of images of me during the two days we worked together, but the one we both liked the best was this portrait he made of me working with him in my office. He catches a characteristic hand gesture – I was expressing how and why I feel about the point at hand, and I seem to be referring to myself by bringing my hands towards myself. He also frames me within my environment, surrounded by the softly focused stuff that accompanies my iMac computer. (We can even see about half of my dog curled up within my desktop image.) And finally, there are all those pairs of glasses. I was wearing my computer glasses at the moment, but my regular glasses hang from my neck so I don’t have to hunt them down when I next need them. I think this is among the most expressive images as I’ve seen of myself in the role of a teacher.
At Midway Basin, by Rosemarie Astwood, Yellowstone National Park, 2008
I was delighted to find this image in Rosemarie’s latest Yellowstone gallery on pbase ( http://www.pbase.com/sunlightpix/yellowstone_country_2008
) She writes in her caption: “Phil is an outstanding photographer and has taught me many lessons, including composing with less sky, and looking at things in new ways. I observed him enraptured with a composition, and took his portrait, then flipped it upside down. Phil seems so happy taking pictures – he reminds me of Fred Astaire in the movie “Royal Wedding,” when he’s so happy that he dances upside down on the ceiling.”
I left this comment for Rosemarie: “This is a remarkable image – the flip does wonders for it, and so do the primary colors of my parka and hat. I can vouch for the happy feeling I get when making pictures, but I am considered a hazard on the dance floor.”
Rosemarie responds: “I was drawn to the primary colors when I composed this portrait. You are the red and yellow, combined with the blue into a trio of bold color. I was very careful to not include any sky, since I was getting a deeper blue from the reflection. And the steam makes a great background. Then I wanted to take it to another level to try to capture the “head over heels” joy that photography imparts.”
With this image, Rosemarie shows us that a successful portrait need not always show human features – but it should always express something about the character or interests of the subject. In this case, her image says that I love what I do, and that I often try to do it in a colorful way, Fred Astaire not withstanding.
Pied Piper, by Tim May, Long Xuyen, Vietnam, 2008
They seldom see tourists in Long Xuyen. And so we drew a crowd of children wherever we walked in this Mekong River town. In this image, pbase artist Tim May catches me doing my best Pied Piper impersonation. No matter where we walked in this neighborhood of Long Xuyen, groups of laughing children followed us. They were fascinated with my camera, and at one point we must have had twenty kids watching, and commenting upon, our every move. None of them asked us for money, and none tried to sell us trinkets, as children did in other Vietnamese cities. All they wanted to do was to follow us, watch us, laugh at us and with us. To these children, I must have like an absurd visitor from another planet, making pictures of ordinary things they all took for granted. Seeing myself here as they must have seen me, I’d have to agree.
Sharing, by Tim May, Can Tho, Vietnam, 2008
This image offers a great contrast in cultural trappings – I am draped in flopping masses of green and khaki, while the monk is draped in a simple orange robe. I am giving him a two minute crash course in expressive photography, and although he might not have understood all of my words, I hoped that he would understand the universal language of photography. I am amused by seeing all of the technology I have come to take for granted when I am shooting in the field – I rely on two digital cameras, a large watch, a handy pen, not to mention all the other stuff that is bulging in the pockets of my photographer’s vest and the computer, and battery chargers awaiting me back in the hotel room. I even wear a tiny Vietnamese flag on my floppy ventilated hat – a gesture of recognition to all of the kind people I encountered in the streets and fields of Vietnam, people just like this gracious monk who so patiently observes me here at my great passion -- teaching. Thanks, Tim, for making this example showing how others saw me in the streets of Vietnam in the first week of 2008.
In synch, by Celia Lim, Malacca, Malaysia, 2007
Celia Lim ( http://www.pbase.com/cecilialim
) catches me sitting next to my friend and fellow pbase photographer Tim May in the sanctuary of Malacca’s ancient Cheng Hoong Tang Temple. We are waiting for Celia to finish shooting her own images, and use the time to check our own progress, editing our work on the fly. Celia sees me as mirror image of Tim – we are wearing the same brand of shooting vest (Domke) and even the same brand of shirt (Ex-Officio), hold our cameras before us in the same way, tilt our eyes towards our LCD screens together, thereby highlighting the fact that we both have less on top than we used to have. Celia links us to the context of the temple by including a pair of windows above us, windows that rhythmically repeat our side-by-side positions. Celia says in her own caption for this image that “over the years of shooting together, Phil and Tim have become quite in synch with each other. They can even anticipate how the other will likely see or shoot an image.” She is correct – I often find myself shooting a “Timesque” image, and Tim will often repay the compliment. Tim and I have shot and edited side by side all over the world. Here, in Malacca’s Cheng Hoong Tang Temple, we seem joined at the hip.
Community, by Cecilia Lim, Singapore, 2007
My outstretched left arm seems to be the focal point of this image, made by Malaysian pbase artist Celia Lim ( http://www.pbase.com/cecilialim
) following a magical day of shooting with a group of fellow pbase photographers in Singapore in late August, 2007. We had pulled four tables together at a local Starbucks, and turned the room into an impromptu conference center. Although everyone appears to living this moment in their own unique way here, the interplay of hands and arms lends a sense of community to the scene. The cameras in the foreground speak of our mutual passion. Our Singapore shoot was graciously hosted by pbase artist Ai Li Lim ( no relation to Cecila ), who sits at left center.
Tutor, by Rusty Latshaw, Phoenix, Arizona, 2008
Rusty ( http://www.pbase.com/russellt
) has traveled from Pennsylvania to Arizona three times in three years to work with me in my one on one tutorial training sessions. He made hundreds of images during his two days with me, but the one that we both liked the best was a portrait he made of me during lunch in a very dark restaurant. Rusty has come to appreciate the value of shadow as an abstracting medium, and in this image he makes use of shadow to its full extent. Using a single bulb in an overhead fixture as his light source, Rusty finds me in a reflective mood. I was studying the menus of my own camera at the moment, and had no idea he was photographing me. He uses a high ISO to make the image, which largely envelops me in darkness. It is an appropriate darkness – our time together was filled with explorations that involved mutual discoveries and many unknowns. The image is intimate and subdued, an interlude of unusual silence, a rare moment during our intensive interplay of teaching and learning.