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

Christmas Eve 2018


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And the Little Dog will be Happy too






I thought you might like these. I do this thing called OurHouse, where I grab the camera and run around the house, the studio, the yard and just document it. No cleaning up, just snap shots of what things look like. I do it about 3 or 4 times a years or when ever. I did this last week, during Thanksgiving weekend. I thought the leaves from the Japanese Maples created a lovely carpet and the next day the lawn guy was coming to make things all clean for the winter. The pots on the deck contain daffodils and they are already popping up. Climate change at work? I leave the Japanese grasses in for the winter as they have a nice golden color. Along around March or so I cut them out. The blue tile patio you can see beyond the deck I hope to demo out this winter. Besides being ugly it has always been slippery when wet and treacherous in snow. The long term plan is to make the whole back yard artificial turf, since grass doesn’t grow there well. And no it won’t look like a soccer field. I have seen some really cool turfs that look pretty real. And the little dog will be happy too.

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The Less Stressful Option


Thanks for talking to me about my little issue. It is always nice to hear your opinion, I value it. I was a little surprised when you said you usually agree with me and then I argue with you. I have never seen our discussions as arguments. In the future I will be more thoughtful and try to deal with stuff myself. Just lately I have had a few incidents that have made me feel disrespected or unappreciated. But that has always been the plight of the artist. My work has never been just a service or a commodity. My ego and self worth is all wrapped up in what I do. And it has always been hard to separate. So even after all this time I still  get fired up when someone dismisses my work. Then I step back and realize it is just a piece of paper or so much digital data, and a lot of folks don’t really care. And I can’t beat them into submission. I can’t make them value or care about what I do. So I quietly retreat and move on. Which is what I am doing with the symphony. I am just going to wait for the check to arrive, put it in my bank and move on. In the long run that is the less stressful option.

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Rhythms and Rituals


Everyday I walk my little dog Barney, through the neighborhood. And most days I see the little old Japanese man with his big white dog. We don’t talk much, but usually say hello. It is a nice part of my day, to connect with other dog people and just enjoy being out in the fresh air. I have become quite hooked on my morning walk, as I am sure Barney is. Much like my morning coffee or sitting by the fire on a damp winter evening, I find this little habit to be something meaningful, if only in a small way. I like the idea of daily rituals and rhythms. I like going to my studio every day and making art, I like laying out plantings in the spring in my garden. It seems that without such little moments, my life would be dull. I like recalling my daily rituals when I worked in Rome or traveled to see my folks in Ohio. And while those moments are long gone, the memories of them are still very fresh in my mind. I will always have them.

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Hey, Good to See You


I have mixed feelings about being there. Like you, I felt unappreciated, I just got to feel it in person. But seeing my photos everywhere, of bright shining faces, made me feel good, even if no one acknowledged my contribution to this organization. The best part was seeing alumni students there that I had photographed, one twelve years ago, they recognized me, said hey, good to see you.

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The World is on to Other Parties


Happy Birthday. Welcome to the officially old club…

Funny thing about age. When you are young you want to grow up, and now that I am older, I sorta want to be younger. Maybe not so much younger, I like where I am right now, but I wish I could freeze time and be in this place for another 10 or 15 years. I think….

Funny too, when I was younger, especially right out of college how intimidated I was by older folks. They knew so much more than me, and would I ever have their knowledge? And here I am now, intimidated by the youngsters and wonder if I will ever have their knowledge? Weird.

Just recently I came to think of my life as a party or an event I was hosting. There is all this preparation, anticipation and hopes and desires for a successful event. You hope you doing all the right things, and that people will show up and that it will be fun and enjoyable. You worry about people not showing up or will it be boring and food lousy… You cross your fingers and open the doors. At first it is quiet and you wonder if any one is going to be there. Then the first few arrive and you get to chatting, eating, carrying on. Soon the place is jammed and buzzing. You try to talk to everyone, but the important thing is that it is all working. Folks are enjoying your party, or your art if it is an opening. But then the next thing you notice is that things start to quiet, and the room begins to empty and despite the success of it all, you don’t want it to stop, you want to hold on to it forever. It’s like, wait, we’re just getting started, it can’t be over. I feel like my life is kind of like that. Like there were all those of years of working to get to this place where you feel good about things, and in this case I am speaking about my work life and not my personal life. But then suddenly the party is over. And I go wait a minute, I am done done yet. I finally know what I am doing. But it doesn’t seem to matter. The world is on to other parties.

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A Fine Rabbit Hole


Well that was a fine rabbit hole you got me to jump down. I hadn’t looked at that folder in years, and clearly it had been edited down, as I recall many more of the images from those 2 shoots. And it was also interesting to see the panoramic image of the cemetery. I believe most of the film I shot for you is long gone, save these. I started by wanting to scan only an image or two of the YMCA, but then got caught up in wanting to see them all come to life. They were never printed in the darkroom. These days scanning gives me my darkroom fix, without the stinky chemicals. With scanning I can also make a superior image, as I can do so much more with film in the digital darkroom than I ever could in the analog dark room. So it was fun to see what these negs really looked like. The Y negs date to 1990. I particularly like that portrait of you. I didn’t recognize you until I enlarged it. But you are wearing a hat and sporting a beard. And your face in engulfed with smoke from your cigarette. It is very cool.

What a blast from the past. Interestingly enough, this is the kind of project I keep meaning to do. I have 1000s of negs like this that have never seen the light of day, never printed. From all over the place. When I got my scanner back in 2003, I got a good one, an Imacon, to scan client stuff mostly, but also for future work on my archives of personal work. I haven’t really made the time to scan as often as I would like, as it tends to be labor intensive. There is a ton of time just cleaning up and that’s a pain. Your stuff is only lightly cleaned up. When I scan now, I tend to clean up as needed, like if I am making a print, or it is to be published. But this was fun, so thank you for reconnecting and pushing my creative buttons.

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At 17


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At 22


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At 32


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