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

It Was a Nice Ride

Mel In Moscow-2


Yes you are right. These would be good conversations to have face to face. Maybe one of these days. Like you I am driven to create things. I always have been. The nice thing about photography is that it can be a medium for personal expression and also a means to earn a living. I always had a need to do both with the camera. It seems a lot of my personal work came as a result of commercial work. Jobs took me places and I was able to see things I probably wouldn’t have if not for the job. And doing assignment work I am sure sharpened my skills. But also I mostly enjoyed my assignments. I learned things, met interesting people and earned a certain satisfaction in seeing my work published. Not to mention interesting places like the White House and the Kremlin and the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. All memorable assignments. Now that the assignments are going away I am realizing just how important that work was to me, and that my personal work doesn’t quite fill all my needs. That maybe I need my work to have a purpose and not just a personal one. But those days are coming to an end and that’s ok. It was a nice ride.

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Dub Me Brilliant

Hey John,

Pure and simple, your replacement is probably cheaper. I know the loss stings, it is hard to compete when it all about the bottom line. I am slowly losing my last UW client, largely due to costs. The U hired a couple of full time photogs a few years ago and have been encouraging the schools and departments to use them. And why not? They are pretty good, know the university’s branding guidelines and all work and rights are retained by the U. Oh and they’re free… The downside is they have a long wait list and occasionally refuse jobs. So my client works with me, partly because of our long standing relationship that dates back before his time at the U and because I am readily available. Somewhere in there the quality of my work matters too. But he is always grumbling about budgets, and we often have to haggle over the numbers. But he has always been very good about paying reuse fees and making sure any third party who want to use the photos we make understands they have to pay fees too. But it is matter of time until that gig dries up.


The shoot at the nursery looks like fun. I love shooting in nurseries. I had a plant client once. They grew smart plants. They were a startup and spin off job from my capital venture client. It was fun to shoot. The green houses were all like giant soft boxes and the light was gorgeous. Plants and portraits. It was fun work, I need to circle back to them and see if they need any updates.


Good to hear you got some work in the Arts Festival. Judging is always screwy. I don’t really submit work to juried shows any more. Too much trouble, not enough positive results. A friend of mine is trying to encourage me to share my work with where he works. He works for the city of Maple Valley and the have an “art” program in their city hall I think it is. I read the specs. Submit work so they can approve and if so, you get to use their wall space. You hang, take down and are responsible for most all advertising. And they made it clear they are not responsible for any damage or theft. They even indicated it is public space and the risk belongs to the artist… gee, what a deal. I think I will pass.  I have plenty of these shows over the years and they are rarely worth the effort. But occasionally I still get snagged by the line… It will be great exposure. To that I say, Google me. Now there’s exposure.


Making photographs for fun is a great idea. I do it all the time. Keeps me curious, not to mention sane. I am putting the finishing touches on a portfolio about my work in the digital age.




Matted prints, linen covered lipped clamshell box, lined with Italian marbled paper. Groovy cover sheet and colophon. When I finish, I will share with whoever wants to see it, but otherwise pat myself on the back and stash it in my archives for some future art historian to find and dub me brilliant. Sounds good, eh?


No I just do what makes me feel good and try (note the word try) not to feel bad when I think I am snubbed or otherwise disrespected somehow. Or replaced by someone cheaper than me.


My dog just got a haircut and lies at my feet. At least he loves me.


Enjoy Mother’s Day.



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Big Hair is Back


The current version of me. Big hair and all.

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Keyless Clock

Panoramic images of the White House

I am not familiar with Seth Thomas the photographer. Only Seth Thomas the clocks. I have one I would like to get rid of. It was left to me by a friend in his will. But it means nothing to me and I just as soon part with it. Know any one who collects old clocks? I am it would have some value if some previous owner hadn’t carved his name or some identification on the back. Not that you can see it, but apparently it took it’s value down notch or two. I never had a key to wind it up until I worked in the White House. I photographed an engineer there whose jobs it was to wind all the clocks in the White House everyday, all 110 of them. I mentioned my keyless clock him and he rifled through a drawer and gave me a key he thought might work. Turns out it did. I said I would return the key on my next visit, as I was there often those days. He said, no, just keep it. So it is precious to me. But not the clock it winds….funny, eh?

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Summer Falls Power Plant May 1985


SummerFallsPowerPlant_May1985v2Check this out. The film was incredibly clean and scanned like a charm. I forgot to ask you what size you wanted, so this probably bigger than you need. I hope it doesn’t make your email box explode. If you need me to resize, let me know. I am sure this is the money shot, as it is the only frame with rocks in the foreground. See how it compares to your print. It is interesting that the binder is all black and white work done for Phil, so various projects. There are several contact sheets of Summer Falls work, but only this shot and 2 others have film. Essentially the important stuff. The other film will probably turn up, as I still have a couple of banker boxes of loose miscellaneous film I never got around to filing away properly. But at least I got my hands on this gem. Thanks for giving me a  reason to get off my butt and do something cool.

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Am I Where I Want to Be?


On February the first, 1984, I arrived in Seattle. 35 years ago today. I had always wanted to live on the west coast, and had a fondness  for Seattle, having visited here several years prior. I thought I might live here for a few years and then drift back east to be closer to family and old friends. But as the years went on, the more in love I became with the Pacific Northwest and here I am. I have often thought about the trials and tribulations that have brought me to this point and the different paths I have journeyed down to get here. What an interesting voyage it has been. I recently imagined my older self having a conversation with that wide eyed young man upon his arrival in Seattle all those years ago. I would give him the highlights and maybe a few lows of what was to come. I am sure my younger self would be amazed, surprised and probably dumb founded. I would allow that young man to ask three questions about what my life would be like in my older age. It would not be about fame and fortune but rather quite simply, Am I happy? Am I healthy? And am I where I want to be? Without hesitation, the elder me would say yes. No further details would be necessary, my life could remain an act of discovery.

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Seattle in Winter

10_Rowers on the Cut-2012

While the midwest braces for brutal winter cold, the daffodils are getting ready to bloom in the northwest. I have always liked winter here, perhaps because I grew up in Ohio and lived through many, many cold winters. It is always mild here and snow is somewhat rare. It is a more civilized winter that allows me to take long morning walks with Barney. It is often, like today, cold but sunny, with blue skies. So I don’t mind the brisk chill. the mountains are out, and folks enjoy the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It is why I moved here.

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Our House

OurHouse_20Nov18_087v3Is a very, very, very fine house. It is also in the middle of our street.

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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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