Lapsus Calamus
Number 3, January 1970
Page 1

Why I Take Pictures
by J. Hill Hamon

IF A PERSON asked me why I take photographs I doubt that I could answer his question quickly. It is something that I like to do. That, perhaps, is all I need to say. Photography, to me, is a challenging and creative activity.

Why do I like to take pictures? It is something that I feel that I do well. A person has a great satisfaction in knowing that he can do something well. I learned what I know about it entirely on my own, and it is a subject that I can continue to study. For me photography is not work; it is fun!

Photography is a form of self-expression, in that through my prints I can show others how I see the world around me. Everyone has a different view of his environment, but only a few people even attempt to describe it to others. There are many media of expression. Poets and writers use words, artists use oils, charcoal, clay or bronze, and photographers use film and photographic paper.

Photography is perhaps more mechanical than some other media of expression, but few people realize the almost total control that some photographers have over their negatives and prints. The resulting images can be extremely flexible and predictable. I am certainly interested in technique because it gives me control over my images, but technique is not a fetish with me. But I do know what my final print will look like before I press the shutter release. I honestly feel that we can photograph anything that we can see.

I like a simple, direct approach to picture making. There is beauty in every scene, and I don’t feel that I must improve on reality by using special darkroom techniques. So I develop my film “normally,” and make my prints straight, with little burning in or dodging.

What cameras do I use? That really isn’t important. Pictures are “made” in the mind. Most of my photographs are composed with a 35mm camera; but I also use a twin-lens reflex and a 4×5 press camera. You probably cannot tell which by looking at my prints.

Is photography art? I don’t know, and really don’t care either. I am suspicious of anyone who thinks he can define art. Photography is a wonderful hobby, and is also an indispensable tool in industry and in scientific research.

Are my prints forms of expressions of my innermost feelings? I honestly don’t know, and frankly don’t care if they are or not. I get a kick out of listening to different people trying to fathom what I am “trying to say” in my pictures. My prints carry profound “messages” for some, none of which I ever intended, or even imagined. If one finds a “message,” it is entirely of his own creation.

If viewers do not like my pictures my feelings are not hurt because I didn’t take them to please anyone but myself. This is the great advantage an amateur photographer has over the professional.

As most readers have never seen examples of fine printing, most snap-shooters have never seen a fine photographic print. For pictures that take your breath away you must view prints by Ansel Adams, doubtless the world’s finest photographer. Whenever I see his pictures I am immensely humbled, and am inspired to renew my own study of photography, to improve my technique, to sharpen my vision, and to more clearly see the incredible beauty of nature that is our precious heritage. These, I think, are a few good reasons for taking pictures.

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What’s Wrong With Materialism?

The main fault of the U. S. in the eyes of many of its detractors is that it is too materialistic.

Apparently, they are saying that too many people have too much.

What they are talking about is the unique phenomenon of a nation that has broken the chains that have bound men through all of human history to systems where a great majority of the people lived in slavery and want.

Under these systems, materialism was rampant and brutal. It consisted of living under the lash and grubbing for a living.

In the words of The Wall Street Journal, “Our materialism in this age is highly visible because for the first time the average man is not condemned to back-breaking labor but instead has the means to indulge his tastes.

“Certainly it is a good, not an evil, development that people have been able to pull themselves out of abject poverty and serfdom or actual enslavement and reach a stage where they can lead a more decent and civilized life.”

As the Journal concludes, “Critics of the American society… fail to realize the grim irony: That their determination to destroy a materialistic society could lead to the worst kind of materialism, the chains of material poverty and of political authoritarianism.”

Reprinted from Farm Bureau News

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Lapsus Calamus is a publication of The Whippoorwill Press, Frankfort, KY, 40601 J. Hill Hamon, Prop.

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