FEELING BEYOND THE LENS
Hello and thank you for visiting my website! My name is Glenn Smith and I’m a Utah based photographer residing in Park City.
You may have noticed the tagline on my website, “Feeling Beyond the Lens”? Well, let me explain what I mean. Most photographers adopt a style or technique for shooting their images. Although photography can be highly technical and it can demand a high degree of various skills, I tend to lean towards a more playful approach when I shoot. “Feeling Beyond the Lens” is actually a sort of altered state I embody while taking photos. I become a curious child and it is then, I feel beyond the technicalities of photography and end up in what peak athletes and artist call, “flow”. This “flow state” is when some unexpected results occur. The subjects of the shoot take on a life of their own and I get a sense and feel of what I’m shooting. Oh sure, there are specific rules that apply while operating a camera but rather than restricting art, why not have fun? By remaining in child-like curiosity, (beginner’s mind) the act of taking photos becomes so much more interesting to me and it never gets old. Speaking of childhood, here’s how becoming a photographer began.
Photography must have been ingrained into my psyche during what developmental psychologists call the “formidable years”. This is pure speculation of course but I have to admit, my curiosity had to have been peeked by my Father as early as 2 years old. There are pictures of my brother and me when we were babies and being in front of the camera was probably more common than not. Dad has always loved cameras and photography, so much so, he worked in the camera department at Sear & Roebuck Co to help pay his way through Salem State Teacher’s College in Salem, Massachusetts. While attending college, Dad was a volunteer school photographer and one of my favorite stories he used to tell me was the time he photographed, then newly-elected Senator, John F. Kennedy. Dad said he grabbed Mr. Kennedy by his suit coat elbow and pulled him into “better light” and JFK said to him, “I can tell you’re going to be a good teacher.” I always love to hear this story! This memorable moment centered around photography and being in front of the lens as a toddler must have had an early influence upon me. Another powerful influence upon me with regard to photography was my Uncle, Don Lester. Before I write about the specifics surrounding my uncle, I want to write more about my Father’s inspiration.
Dad bought me my first camera for my fifteenth birthday in 1975. It was a used Exacta VX500 purchased from Denevi Camera in San Leandro, California. (Far from Massachusetts, I know but it’s a long story.) Anyway, it was a 35 mm SLR with a prism on top and it was this camera that set me on my way. Dad and I would shoot photos with one another and he taught me about the basics of the camera’s operation, photography terms, and my favorite topic, composition! My father showed me the “zoning system” and how it pertains to light and depth of field. My father taught me to “always shoot to the outside of your frame”, which is the best advice I have ever received!
Perhaps my favorite photo outing with my father was a canoe and backpacking trip in British Columbia, Canada during the Summer of 1975. Bowron Lake Provincial Park is a 76 mile or so circuit of lakes connected by short portages in perhaps one of the most remote areas in North America. Our cameras were packed in zip-lock plastic bags and it took everything in our power to keep our gear dry as it rained for the entire trip. Gortex and Dacron backpacks were not available for the casual backpacker so “wet” was the operative term for this trip.
Dad and I took many photos on that trip; mostly for slides. He shot with his new Nikon F, which he gave to me, by-the-way and I had my Exacta. One morning we were shooting the glass-smooth lake with the reflections of towering mountains glimmering upon the surface when Dad’s Nikon shutter froze. The shutter on my Exacta “slapped” loudly and I proceeded to take several more images that morning. Dad, on the other hand, was very disappointed with his Nikon and we attributed the camera shutter failure to the excessive moisture and the fact that it was 37 degrees that morning.
The slide trays for this trip with my Dad are somewhere in his home in the Bay Area of California and I hope I can salvage some of the slides one day. One thing is for certain, the Bowron Lake trip inspired me to shoot landscape photography which I, much later in life, started to do once again. Now, about my Uncle, Don Lester.
One of my Uncle’s many hobbies was photography and he always had great taste so he would often purchase top-of-the-line camera gear. His preferred camera at the time (1967-1976) was the Leicaflex. In fact, I believe he had purchased two Leicaflex bodies! In addition to these magnificent cameras, he had an assortment of lenses that would make most photographers envious. Finally, he had assembled an entire darkroom in the basement of his home to top it all off. I was lucky to be front and center to all this gear. (Often during Summer visits to his home.)
My Uncle is an extremely generous man who during the time of my youth, would often allow me to take photos with one of these Leicaflex cameras. He showed me how to use a hand-held light meter and how to set the camera up for various shots. My earliest memories of taking photos with my Uncle were during one of the many “photos walks” we would take in and around the town of Nahant, Massachusetts. Nahant is a wonderfully photogenic New England town with its historical buildings and many ocean vistas. These photo walks also inspired me to lean more towards landscape photography as I loved to shoot images of the coastline. Now, from the camera to the darkroom.
Nahant Photo Walk, Circa 1967. I’m on the left,
My big brother, Greg is on the right with a Rollei 35 mm
Around his neck.
Not only is it rare for a 10-year-old kid to take photos with a very expensive camera, but it was also equally rare to assist in post-production too! My Uncle allowed me to help him develop our photos and to this day, I can smell the stop solutions and hear the loud buzzer timers going off. My job was to move the prints from bath to bath as each timer went off. I also placed the prints in the rinse bin and hung them to dry. What an absolute thrill it was and still is really, to see images come to life! I cannot express enough gratitude for the times I got to spend with my Uncle. Photography was just one area of hobbies he shared with me but it’s the bulk of my personal interest carried forward to today.
I have to say, I’m extremely lucky to have had so much inspiration and encouragement to become a photographer. I will always consider myself as a “serious amateur” with a “beginner’s mind”, that way I will always keep “Feeling beyond the Lens” and I will always have fun taking photos. Today, I’m so grateful to be living in one of the most photogenic states in the lower 40. Utah has been my home for almost 30 years now and it is an absolute privilege to be able to explore the infinite landscapes within our state. It is my deepest desire to continue to create beautiful images of the Intermountain West and I hope you enjoy them enough to come back to my website to view my art on a frequent basis. Again, thank you for visiting my site and please contact me if you desire to purchase prints!