It's the journey, not the destination Mel Curtis's thoughts on a life in the world of photography

Used Food

Ok, now I have jumped down a rabbit hole and gotten caught in a time sucking journey to the past…

The party negs got me thinking about all those folks we knew there. Quite a few of the party images are of George Rehrey. Not sure why. I mean we we’re particularly friends. He was actually mostly rude to me. But maybe on that night it didn’t matter. Do you still keep in touch with him? I see he works at Indiana University. It is interesting to see how he looks now. I wouldn’t recognize him. But then I doubt he would recognize me either. Funny I would recognize you, and Nancy and Barry and Joe, even Steve the peach. I thought about scanning some George film and connecting with him…but probably not,  well maybe… I dunno..

So I just a little Google tour of Athens, trying to my find my second year house in the west end. I couldn’t find it, but I don’t recall the exact address. But I did find this…

It’s still there. Amazing. I used to go there occasionally and get day old fried chicken wings for a quarter apiece. When I would go with Richard he would be grossed out by my indulgence. He called it used food…

Then I got to thinking, how is it that we have stayed in touch all these years? It would have been harder then, keeping in touch and all. I graduated in 1983 and left Athens at the end of the summer. Did you graduate that year? I seem to recall you being around another year. Is that the case? I imagine I had your address. Mine was probably my parents as I floated around for 6 months before moving to Seattle in January of 1984. What was your chain of events?

I hope I am not boring you with my little trip down memory lane. But it seems the past few years I have developed an obsession with connecting the dots of my life. All starting with the question…How did I get here? There is very little evidence from my time in Athens that would suggest that I would end up here, doing what I am doing, having been where I have been. But then I was a pretty confused boy at Ohio University. I have not been back to OU since I left. Part of me is curious about doing a drive by. And part of me wants to leave it in the foggy haze I left behind

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Hanging Out with Mel

I came across film of you recently and made a mental note to hand off to you. Part of my future plans is to slowly find appropriate homes for my life’s work. Most of my photo friends like you plan to let their kids deal with it. I have no such option. At the moment my stuff is headed for  Special Collections. They will appropriately catalog it and put it where the sun never shines. And even then, they will most likely discard much of it, such as the photos of you. I am sure their thinking will be “Who is this person? Is he important? How can we tell, Mel didn’t leave us any names. Just a college buddy. It can be discarded”. So they are better off in your hands, where they will be appreciated for what they are. Pictures of my husband, my father, my grandfather…. A man in his youth, just hanging out with Mel, a friend of his.

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Belle Epoch


Your travels sound wonderful. What a great spirit you are instilling in Luca, wanderlust. And to think I was almost 40 years old before I stepped on foreign soil (Canada and Mexico don’t count). So France and Crete in the fall. That’s an interesting combo. How did that connection come about?

I might be able to visit sooner than later. I just gave notice to my real estate client. Even though she was my biggest paycheck, I just didn’t like dealing with her company and their attitudes. I want it now, I want it cheap and I want a lot of it. And oh…I can do any thing I want with it too. I saw that it wasn’t going to change, so I quit. It was time, I suppose the only reason I really hung around at this point was for the cash flow, modest as it was. The novelty of seeing  how rich folks live in gazallion dollar properties had long worn off. It had become just a job. Time to go.

So now what? I would like to make more art. Now there’s a lucrative venture. But this year things have picked up at SAM and I have had some out of no where sales from the internet. So maybe it is time to turn over a few stones and see what the possibilities are. But one thing for sure, it will be more fun.

This Saturday I get to spend the day in the gymnasium at Inglemoor High School judging the WA State High School photo competition. I get to look at over 4000 prints and pick 30 for an exhibition. Been doing it for about 10 years. Never seems to get old, and somehow restores my faith in the future of still photography. None the less, at then end of the day my back is killing me and eyes are burning. There are always 3 judges and sometimes we even get to fight over a print to determine what’s in the show. I usually win as I dazzle the other judges with my grad school buzz speak…you know the talk… the contextual juxtaposition of diverse elements and how they resonate with the human spirit… And harkens to the early works of Henri Lartique during the Belle Epoch…or something like that.

Now I want to go back to France.

I’m coming to see you soon.


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Million Dollar Views

Well I think you would be proud of me. I gave my 2 week notice yesterday. Carter thought I should keep it under my hat, as he thinks I will change my mind. But, no, this is for real this time. And if they didn’t have a line up of projects, it would have been effective immediately. I won’t get into details, because as you know, it’s a short story that has just been going on for a long time. It is not so much about the client, as it is about my own expectations. About what I expect from my industry. But I realized this morning on my walk with Barney that I have been in denial. You see I guess I have always seen myself as an executive chef at a fine restaurant, where I make fine creations and people are appreciative, respectful and appropriately compensate you for your work. But in reality, in this case, I am just a cook at a fast food restaurant. And your clientele want it now, cheap and a lot it. The only difference is these particular clients want the fine creations too. And it isn’t going to change. So it is time to move on. In the end it wasn’t so hard to quit. Yea, my cash flow will take a little hit, but my stress level should go way down. So maybe I will live longer. I will miss the million dollar views and seeing how the fabulously well to do live, but that’s about all.

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Lunch at Dona’s

Thanks  man for allowing me to vent this morning. It’s tricky sometimes trying to navigate the waters of the business world, especially when the client is a friend. Not always a good combination. When it comes to money I always try to be fair, and sometimes I give in and say whatever, because I hate to quibble about  such things. But I have a hard time when I feel I am being taken advantage of and being disrespected. I don’t like people stealing my work. At very least, I need a please and thank you. The money part is negotiable. Oh, the joys of running a business.
I went ahead and cleaned  up this image of Lunch at Dona’s. It gave me something to do for about an hour while I stewed over things. Making art has always been my go to place when things are a bit chaotic in my world. I either try to express my feelings through imagery or in this case, return to a moment that brings pleasant memories. And this moment was very pleasant and memorable. Having an amazing lunch at the lovely home of Dona Hochart, in a little French town south of Paris. It was autumn and the day was  perfect. It is very clearly etched in my mind. And now I have this sweet little image as an emotional book mark.


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A Quiet Way of Seeing


If you are interested in learning more about the camera that I made this image with, just Google Diana camera and there is plethora of information about it. As I mentioned on the phone, many photographers are attracted to it’s use as a throw back to the days of simple cameras. It is less complicated and speaks to a more simple, quiet way of seeing. Also the capture images are more like those made in the early days of photography, when all photographs had a slightly soft, dreamy appearance.

Let me know if you have any questions and I thank you for your interest in my work.

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Et Merci Beaucoup Pour le Lagniappe!

Hi Mel,

The prints are absolutely beautiful. A thousand times better than I was expecting. Well worth the wait. The enchanting story this image conveys touches me deeply. I can’t wait to witness my brothers’ reactions.

Et merci beaucoup pour le lagniappe!… as we would say back home in Louisiana. What a jewel, the little postmarked box and its contents. My dad and I spent 10 days on la costa del sol. The beautiful words and pictures in your little book bring back memories of that world so different. We often talk about going back during “el tiempo del melón.”

Thank you from the bottom of my heart my good friend,




I am glad you are pleased. I thought you would be. There is nothing like the beauty of a well made silver print. And those prints are truly representative of of what my intentions were at the time. As you can see, they are soft, yet sharp. In the process of exposing the neg to paper I would wave a plastic bag under the enlarging lens for about a 1/3 of the exposure time. It would give the print a soft glow. But the fact that the neg itself is tack sharp, the print retains some of that clarity as well. The process gives the print a dreamy quality. I used that technique often, especially on portraits. Oddly enough, I have not found a good way to replicate that look in digital, at least like that.

I am also glad my little Spain book resonates with you as well. I spent six weeks there as a visiting artist in the summer of 1994. I stayed in the little village of Mojacar, to the east of Costa del Sol near Almeria.

Thank you for your kind words, and with your request allowing to go on a little journey to my artistic past. It has been a pleasure working with you and I hope you and your brothers enjoy  the image of Tyson and Ella for a long, long time.

Very best to you.


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It Was a Magical Time

Luxembourg_Respite_02V1At the end of February in 1998 I went to London for 10 days. My first trip to that great city. We stayed across the street from Hyde Park and toured the city at length. There was suppose to be a launch party for a new stock agency was working with at the time, but that was delayed. Never the less, we had a great time. I flew home, and 6 days later I was on a plane to Paris. My first visit there as well. And as much as I had liked London, Paris just took my breath away. It was so beautiful. Being winter, it was quiet too, not so many tourists. We spent a month in Europe most of it in France, most of it in Paris. It was be the first of many visits and I never got tired of roaming the streets of that city. Never got tired of making images of places I had only seen in art books. It has been awhile now since I have been there, but I will never forget that first time, that first glimpse of  the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame or the Champs-Elysees. It was a magical time.

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Oscar Night In Seattle


Went to an Oscar bash last night in downtown Seattle. It was kind of fun. Perhaps a bit loud or perhaps I am getting too old to dress up and party. Or maybe it just wasn’t my cup of tea. But stepping out on the street to get the car, the city was alive and vibrant. Seattle has changed so much over the time I have lived here. I suppose it is a good thing. It’s not like I can do anything about it. I guess I lament the rising cost of living and the sudden onslaught of traffic and youngsters glued to their phones like zombies. But I still do like it here. And hope I can afford to stay here if I wish.

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Fits Like an Old Shoe

Agreeable gray…. Sounds nice. It is very pleasant and neutral and as they say on HGTV, it is what buyers want. I have always used grays in my studio and living spaces. And red too. Here’s my old studio.

MPC Studio

Carter likes bigger colors, hence we have a deep blue bedroom and salmon in the living and dining rooms. And chocolate brown in the master bedroom. I have a feeling we will be painting when we decide to move. But for now we live here and we like it. The stupid thing about watching HGTV and doing the real estate work I do is that it makes me want to change the whole house. Toss out everything and start over. Not so much a renovation but a re decoration. Get rid of the plants, the furniture, the rugs…everything. Except maybe the art. But even then we have so much art we could replace all that too. But then maybe all I really want is another place, a downtown condo that I could decorate and escape to occasionally, pretend to have another life, leaving my “fits like old an shoe” home the way it is, always having that comfort food to come home to.

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