Monday, January 12, 2009

Pea Soup

A rather chilly, gray day this, and the thought of split pea soup just warms me up. Pea soup also harkens me back to a camping trip I took with Clipper some twenty odd years ago.

One evening, while we were camped along the Elkhorn River in northern Nebraska, I was making a pot of the aforementioned soup over an open fire. The odor must have been irresistible for soon a neighbor walked up and started small talk. I offered him a bowl of soup and he quickly accepted. I then poured him a whisky on the rocks and he gratefully accepted that too. This fellow, about my age, was an itinerant photographer. He traveled throughout the West taking portraits at schools, churches, and clubs. His specialty was baby pictures. The man was extremely happy with his job and very proud of his work. In fact, after the second whisky he rushed back to his tent and toted over a large album of his best baby photos.

Looking through the album, I was stunned by the quality of this man's work . . . stunned, that is, not by the high quality of his work, but stunned at how terrible the photos were. They were awful. This poor man who smiled lovingly as each page turned and who took such pleasure at showing me the album seemed to have a God-given gift for highlighting the flaws and imperfections in each of his tiny subjects–-red spots, rashes, pointed heads, lazy eyes, bad teeth, crooked smiles–-all seemed to be accentuated in this man's photos. I did not see one child that could be called cute, cuddly or adorable; indeed, most were ugly and grotesque in the extreme. Many photographers, I've heard, snap three or four shots and pick the best. This unlucky man must have drilled a dozen and picked the worst. He was a good, decent guy who loved what he did, but I am absolutely certain that as of this writing he has drifted to another line of work.


Art of the Day