Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Studying to become a Quick Study...


During October 1971, after only my first month as a freshman at Kent State University, the daily school newspaper asked me to photograph a distinguished guest on campus, the architect R. Buckminster Fuller.

It was an easy assignment to give to the new kid, since our evening deadline was several hours away and Fuller would be tutoring a senior drafting class only one flight above our newsroom in Taylor Hall.

Even in these earliest days in my love of imagery, however, I knew that I would not be satisfied simply with a good likeness of the man. With the geodesic dome as only one of his more well-know creations, Fuller was considered one of the most brilliant, original thinkers of American architecture in the 20th Century. I wanted to see if I could catch the man in the act of being and becoming what we most admired about him: someone struggling for inspiration, a vision of the future.

That's not to say that plenty of other photographers would have been glad to stumble upon this moment. The slim advantage I had was understanding a bit about my subject in advance, and knowing how the world imagined him at his best, and realizing that the picture which would be most fitting might require an angle and a sense of timing that was not reactionary, but rather anticipatory.

I was competing shoulder-to-shoulder with other photographers, some with much more experience than I had; but I knew I would be shooting with slightly different priorities, one that made Fuller less of a target and more of a co-author for this portrait.


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