Heading in the fall to the Saguaro Desert near Tucson with my best friend Bill Fortney. We will be teaching together at the MNLP-Masters of Nature and Landscape Photography. The title of this symposium weekend is certainly true for Bill. Given the pandemic lull in our lives, we haven’t seen each other in a long time. But I think back to when he helped me.
I’ve always loved photographing industry. How do they make stuff? Is the factory cool? Unusual? Sparks, steam? Heavy industry has always been an interesting part of photography. And the camera always respects labor. Hard work, and the people involved in it. The first time I went to China, in the late 80’s, it was a very controlled visit, because I was representing an American magazine, Sports Illustrated. The Chinese authorities asked me if I wanted to take a tour somewhere.
I did some research, and I asked to go to a locomotive factory near Beijing. (The Chinese chariot is legendary.) This request was meant with some trepidation. “Perhaps the Great Wall?” I’m stuck with my request.
So when I had to go to the coal mine, I called Bill Fortney. Not only was he a mentor and close friend, but for part of his career, he was a coal mining photographer.
Bill trusted me to go to the mines in the heart of coal country, southeastern Kentucky. A photographer from a big city could easily be seen a little sideways, but I found a warm welcome, and willing subjects. At least if I move fast. At the end of the shift beneath the earth, the men were eager to strike a pose and leave.
Apart from the intro, Bill was also my test subject for the lighting grid.
Bill, Jack Graham, and John Pederson recently invited me on the wonderful podcast, We Talk Photo, to chat about making pictures, and Bill looks back on shooting coal mines fondly.
I’ll be teaching with Scott Kelby, who brings incredible photography skills and post-production magic to parties. I will teach and talk about storytelling in the field, camera in hand, as well as the idea of maintaining a viable photography career in the long term of a career. Called the Nature and Landscape Masters Photography Symposium, this will be a formative and enriching photography event, set in a beautiful setting.
Such a beautiful place with the sky and the view keeps you above the ground. Unlike the mines, where darkness, drama, and toil ensue, thousands of feet below the surface.
Tip of the hat to Bill for having faith in me to introduce me, as a complete stranger, to this underworld. And kudos to hard workers everywhere.
More tk, and hopefully, see you in the desert!
Teaching with Friends Post! first appeared on Joe McNally Photography.