Bill Emory on getting into photography.

I grew up in Virginia on the south bank of the James River just west of the tidewater. I had a Brownie, had an Instamatic, got a Nikkormat and moved to Charlottesville in 1971.

I took one UVA art-photography class, the focus was "Be as mysterious as possible and devastate your fellow students in Critique."

As an Anthropology major I found a constructive way to combine photography and course-work. I turned in papers that were three inches thick, heavy with black and white pictures. I didn't have to hunt for mystery or devastation, both quantities were readily available in the world.

I graduated from UVA May 18, 1975, in the rain. May 19, I started work as a farm laborer in Madison County, Virginia. The pictures that follow are from that first job.

In addition to farm-laborer and newspaper photographer my occupational incarnations include dishwasher, janitor, retail photo clerk, plumber, HVAC repairman, auto mechanic, CAT scan technologist and computer worker (whatever it takes to buy film.) After 31 years in the darkroom I am firmly on the road to understanding how to print black and white.

Photos for me are studies of time, light, loss, longing and the nature of change. They are my heart and memory.

Back in 1979 photographer Ralph Gibson, juror for a show at the Virginia Museum, made the aside, about my future,

"he'll probably end up as a newspaper photographer."

When I was a newspaper photographer, my boss, Ken Paik, director of news illustrations at the Times Union in Jacksonville, FL said

"I never know what you're going to bring back when I send you out... artsy-fartsy crap."

And if those two men weren't challenging enough masters there is the Art World peopled by Curators who collect photographs like baseball cards, "I got a Lange, a Weegee, a Frank and an Adams."

I take photographs, I will take photographs. Validation and Redemption are uncertain, time, light, loss and longing are not.


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