August 22, 2014

Five Things Photography Has Given Me

1970 Mary at Corona Fina 750Mary, 1971 – This is my friend from school, Mary Doyle, at Corona Del Mar in California. I created this image with one of my favorite cameras from my youth, a mini-Speed Graphic with a 220 roll back. 

1. A wonderful childhood. Beginning at age 14 and for the next several years, photography became my life and I spent every moment either photographing, working in my darkroom or reading about photography.

I have such wonderful memories of those long days working in the darkroom, experimenting and the thrill of discovery.

1971 Two Hippies - Final 4-12-2009 550Two Hippies, 1970 – This was created at my high school, Loara in Anaheim, CA.  This was created at the height of the hippy movement, which along with the drug scene was very much alive at my high school.

2. Balance.  I chose not to pursue a career in photography for fear I would lose my passion for it, and instead went into business. Unfortunately, due to the demands of family and job I did not pick up the camera for the next 30 years.

My business life was all about numbers, logic and rational decision making, and with no creative outlets my life became lopsided. It was not until I returned to photography in 2004 that I realized how out of balance my life had become.

Photography and the creative process helped bring balance back into my life.

1970 Indian Statue - Final 7-26.2006 550Wooden Indian, 1971 – I worked at Disneyland and this image was created on Main Street. This statue is still standing there today and every time I see it, it conjures up great memories of my youth, photography and working at Disneyland. Ironically I now work in downtown Fort Collins, the downtown that inspired Disney’s Main Street.

3. The Ability to see. Photography has helped me to see beauty in the ordinary and find uniqueness in the common. That makes every location, exotic or not, exciting.

1970 Shoes - Final 4-30-2005 550
Old Shoes, 1971 – This is a shoe locker at my High School.  I had just moved to Anaheim from Rochester, NY and being new, my eyes were fresh and saw everything for the first time. It was a very productive two years because of the encouragement of a dear friend and mentor, John Holland.

4. Vision. Through photography I found my Vision, or my unique way of seeing the world. What I see through my Vision is much different than what I see with my eyes.

My Vision is what fuels my creative process.

1970 Gull and Moon - Final 9-28-2010 750Gull and Moon, 1971 – This was created in two parts: the seagull was shot during the day in my high school parking lot and the moon was an infrared night shot.  These two images were sandwiched in the enlarger and printed.  My negatives from those days were lost and this image was recovered from a single print I found. This is my favorite image from my youth.

5. Confidence. Finding my Vision and learning to follow it taught me that I didn’t need another persons approval to feel good about my work or myself as an artist.

I’ve learned that if I love my work, that is enough.

1971 Headlamp - Final 4-14-2009 750Headlamp, 1970 – This old truck sat in a field across from my High School in Anaheim. I consider this my Edward Weston period, a time when I was mesmerized with his work and tried to copy it.


I thought about adding a sixth item: Purpose.  But as I thought about it, I realized that photography is not my purpose in life.

Rather, photography makes my life better and that helps me to fulfill my real purpose in life.


P.S.  The images in this post were created when I was 14-17 years old.  These images are like a time machine, transporting me back to those wonderful days when I was young and always had a camera around my neck.

1971 Clay Figure Final 4-12-2009 550Clay Figure, 1971 – Student projects at my high school.
1970 Artist - Final 8-11-2005 550Artist, 1970 – This portrait artist worked at the Disneyland Hotel shops.
1971 Old Building - Final 4-12-2009 550Old Building, 1971 – An old farm shed in Anaheim.
1968 Egg in Glass - Final - 10-6-2005 550Egg in Glass, 1968 – I was 14 and I had purchased a used Pony 828 camera. I removed the lens mount so that I could focus more closely, and using a ground glass on the film plane, composed this image. I tell people that this was my first “fine art” photograph!
1971 Spraying Water and Bird - Final 4-12-2009 750Spraying Water and Bird, 1971 – This was photographed at 1000 steps in Laguna Beach, CA. Many, many fond memories were made here.

15 thoughts on “Five Things Photography Has Given Me

  1. Great post. I graduated from Loara’s rival, John F. Kennedy (Cypress, CA)in 68. Don’t know about now but Loara always had great football teams.

    I lived a block from Knott’s Berry Farm so much of what you are showing seem familiar like the old building and the truck but can’t place it.

    Thanks again,

  2. Another excellent post, Cole! It’s obvious that you have an natural (or in-born) talent. My path in photography has been quite different than your (as all our paths are) but I agree with you on the things that photography has given me. While it’s not a profession, it’s a passion and not a day goes by that I don’t do something to feed that passion. Thanks for sharing your stories with the rest of the world. (I remember the hippy days, myself.)

  3. Very enjoyable post, Cole. And your early images show you had a great eye from the beginning, as Terry Olsen has said above you have an inborn talent. What is interesting is how your personal vision has developed (when we look at your current output).

  4. Have these images been re-envisioned (reprinted) in the last few years? Or we’re you a master printer way back when?

  5. It’s readily apparent that even at a young age you had that innate sense of being in the moment, connection, truly seeing. And, time spent in the darkroom only made these images better. I am glad you have returned to photography.

  6. Karl, you are most perceptive! No, these images looks soooooo much better today than when I printed them at 17 years of age.

    Some of that is experience and some is the technology. I can do so much more, much easier and much better with Digital.

    But technical perfection does not make a great image.

  7. Cole, A great retrospective.

    By my calculations, Mary Doyle would be about 60 now. Ahhh, photography-putting time in a bottle. I hope she has a copy of this image.


  8. “Learn from everyone, copy no one.” (unknown author). Your early years spent studying and experimenting and copying (e.g., Adams and Weston) has yielded a fabulous vision that copies no one and clearly can be seen even in these early images. I too had a short period (age 18-20) when photography was a serious hobby (not as serious as it was to you) and double exposures where something I really liked. “Gull and Moon” is one of the most beautiful images I have ever seen; I exaggerate not. A great blog post with a simple yet very complex message. Thank you Cole.

  9. Loved reading this and seeing the great “old” photos. I started my journey with photography 5 years ago at the age of 55. Wish I had discovered it sooner. It brings me balance also.

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