Wanda Merritt Anthony

Wanda Merritt Anthony

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Burning Question

You're probably wondering how and why did a legally blind person become a photographer.  Well, it has been almost a lifelong process.  I guess you can say my mother is the one responsible for getting me started.  I wonder if she had any idea what seed she was planting in me when she bought me a camera for Christmas so long ago.

The details of that Christmas are dim.  I don't remember if my sister had been born yet or how Old I was.  If I could remember which dorm I was in at the Arkansas School for the Blind I could narrow my age down to within a couple of years.  If I had to guess, I'd say I was between the ages of six and eight.   I do remember that Mom and I were excited about the camera.  Dad commented that he wished it was the kind you can see the pictures immediately instead of having to send the film away to be developed.  What pictures did I take with that camera?  What kind of camera was it?  What happened to it?  I don't know.  But I do remember Mom's and my excitement over the camera.

Several cameras were to follow that first one.  A few were Polaroids to satisfy Dad.  I always preferred the film that needed developing over the Polaroids.  The colors and details were sharper on the no-instant films.  My cameras ran the gamete from a 126 to a 110 and those Polaroids I mentioned.  I didn't know it then but the 110 was a downgrade from the 126.  Back then 110 cameras were all the rage because they were small enough to put in your pocket.  In fact, they were called pocket cameras.  Consumer Reports even rated these cameras on a feature they termed pocket-ability. 

Everybody I knew who had a camera had at 110.  This was true until I was introduced to the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  All these young men had 35mm single lens reflex cameras.  With these cameras the image in the viewfinder was actually what would eventually be on the photograph when it came back.  No need to adjust for the difference between the lens and viewfinder.  These cameras had so many settings.  I could imagine myself taking such great pictures with one of these cameras.  I wanted one; how I wanted one.   But it wasn't to be, not yet.  These cameras had one big fault I couldn't overcome.  Really two big faults but only one insurmountable obstacle, no auto focus back then.  The other drawback was price, but I could have always saved up for one.

Technology moved forward until they started making 35mm cameras with auto focus in the mid 1980's.  These cameras had auto focus and of course used the larger 35mm film.  I don't remember if these cameras put more control in the photographers' hands but I bought one for myself and was very excited to have it.  I used that camera exclusively for about seven years.

More technology came and auto focus became standard and affordable on single lens reflex cameras.  Mine came with a 50mm fixed focus lens.  I bought a book on 35mm photography and signed up for a color film developing course.   I learned a ton of valuable information from depth of field and white balance to how to develop color film and make prints.  Most important, I learned where I wanted to spend my time and it wasn't in the darkroom.  Color film must be developed in total darkness, no safe lights in this process.  The developing solutions can only be used once, and they are quite expensive.

Shortly after I bought my 35mm SLR I came across a book called Sell and Resell your Photos.  According to amazon.com it's by Rohn Engh.  I read this book and decided to see if I could sell some of my photographs.  What made me, a long time snap shooter, recently turned photography student, legally blind, nobody think I could sell my photographs is beyond me.

I naively went around Salk Lake City taking pictures of all the tourist attractions.  I shot both print film and slide film.   The book had said something about needing both prints and slides so I was going to be prepared. I enlarged the prints, put the slides in a projector carousel, skimmed the book again, called a local company,  (I don't remember which) and made an appointment to show and peddle my work.

I can only imagine what the man I met with was thinking.  Though he didn't buy anything, he had been nice.  I remember two things from this meeting.  The first is to shoot slides, preferable Kodachrome 25 or 64 and put the slides into acid free plastic slide pages.     I took his advice and ran with it.  I stocked up on Kodachrome 25 and put it in the freezer.  Because I was now shooting with such slow film I invested in a Slik tripod.

Next I bought a copy of that year's edition of Photographers Market.  I sent away for submission guidelines to various types of companies: calendar companies, magazines, stock photography agencies, greeting card companies, text book publishers, you name it.  I submitted photos to several companies with mixed results.  A calendar company in Hawaii wanted to use five of my photos in the 1992 edition of its Beautiful Tropical Flowers calendar.  A small stock photography agency in Florida accepted several of the images I had sent there.  I was on my way and so psyched.  The calendar company sent me a rather large check and a calendar.  This is when I learned they had featured the bird of paradise flower for October and the other pictures were scattered throughout as supporting photos for the featured shots in other months.  I showed  the calendar to everybody who would look.  I think I sold one photo through the stock agency in Florida before it closed.

I liked the idea of selling stock photography because I could shoot, submit, and if the photo was accepted I could potentially earn money for myself indefinitely.  I contacted a local stock agency in Salt Lake City called The Stock Solution.  I made an appointment with the owner Royce Bair.  The meeting went well and to my surprise he chose a few of my slides to add to his library.  Occasionally I would get a check from The Stock Solution for between $100 and $200 dollars.  Sometimes I'd get a copy of the project my image was used in.  Mr. Bair was forward thinking back in the 1990's.  He was already scanning slides into computers and doing amazing things with digital photography.  I just couldn't see where digital was going.   

Digital was gaining ground and I thought was I stuck.  At that time I didn't have a clear understanding of the equipment I'd need.  I thought I'd need the camera, a docking station to transfer the shots, lots of special ink for the printer and a scanner.  I don't know how my thinking got so warped but it did.  I was convenced I couldn't afford it.  I continued on with film for a while longer.  Then I did a foolish thing that I regret.

One day I was looking at the digital photos on The Stock Solution's website.  By that time The Stock Solution had hundreds of digital images online.  I browsed and searched but couldn't find any of my pictures.  I decided to get my feelings hurt.  I wrote Mr. Bair and asked him to remove my slides from his library.  I didn't give a reason or explanation.  Now those slides from my world travels are sitting in a box doing nobody any good.  I don't have the equipment to turn them into quality digital images myself and having it done is too costly. 

I took the plunge once I figured out all I needed was the digital camera.  I already had a computer and was very computer savvy.  My husband bought Adobe Photoshop Elements for me for Christmas.  I was off and running again.  This time in the new and exciting world of digital photography.  I learned which flaws were worth fixing and which photos not to bother to correct.  I learned how to remove an object from its surroundings and place it on a white background or another place altogether.  Because my traveling days were over, I started taking pictures of everyday things around me.

Eventually I bought a digital SLR camera, the best of both worlds. I still shoot stock photography but have expanded into videography as well. I am booked to shoot my first wedding the last of next month.

My stock photos and footage can be purchased at pond5. There you will find these and many more examples of my work.
Photo Ops abound.

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