The Welder

The Welder.
The Welder.

I don’t always made normal portraits.

In fact, I rarely do. You’ll never confuse me with a studio photographer who shoots nice family portraits. That’s okay. For all of us.

But, there is a great backstory here.

When I was working for The New River Newspapers in Virginia, the advertising staff came up with an idea to sell ad space. They created an entirely new product. It was designed like a magazine, but it fit in normal newspaper specs. It was basically, what some people call, a shopper. It also created a lot more work for me. I was already working something like 80 hours a week. Young newspaper staffers, looking to make their marks and move on to a bigger newspaper, do that. My executive editor sold the idea to me by saying I would get the cover and the middle spread to publish whatever pictures I wanted. And, I could control the layout and design of the crossover spread. Now, that was something. My pictures. My stories. My way.

Oh, and by the way, the new product was called, “The Picture.” The tagline was “Get The Picture.” A perfect advertising sales tool.


When the advertising stuff saw this picture they just about fell on their faces. This was not what they had in mind. They were thinking of nice, sweet pictures of flowers, puppy dogs and maybe toddlers. But, the executive editor stood by me. So, this was the first cover.

The picture. It was made in spring of 1980. Nikon F 2 and an 85mm lens. Tri-X film. That I know for sure. What I can’t remember is where I took the picture. I provided a lot of “evergreen art” for use by the layout editors when they needed to design a page and didn’t have a photograph and story combination. These were pictures that stood on their own and were not time or story based. So, I drove around a lot. Looking. By a lot of driving, I mean a lot. To the point that it was far more cost efficient to issue me a company credit card rather than to pay my mileage. The bosses allowed me to use it for every car-related thing. Oil changes, repairs, tune-ups. And, of course, gas. They even let me use it for personal trips because that was how they paid for wear and tear on my car. Of course, how many personal trips could I take working 80 hours a week? It was an okay deal. But, not great. Still, who pays my car insurance? And, all those miles killed any good trade in deal on a new car.

So. I was just out looking around. As usual.

This guy caught my eye because I saw the sparks from his welding torch. I stopped. We talked. And, he let me hang out and take pictures. Somewhere along the line, I asked him to flip-up his mask and look at the camera. This is the result.

The inside spread was more along the lines of a picture story. It showed process and scene. I don’t have any prints or tear sheets of that. Thank Hurricane Katrina. But, I do have the negatives. One of these days…



    1. Thank you. A lot of the way I frame portraits, or anything really, is often about trying to keep the picture graphically clean. Or, trying to keep what I think is the important information in the picture.


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