I was recently introduced to an older man who worked for the same metropolitan daily newspaper as I did. His tenure ended when I probably was in high school, so our paths never met. Only a newspaper would understand this, but I did not know his byline. He is well into his retirement. I politely inquired about his activities and his countenance brightened when he described the profile he was writing about Joe Somebody. He said the real name and had an look of expectation on his face, as if I should know who he was talking about. I did not. Sometimes, I pretend to know who the mystery person is (probably fooling no one), but his this a fessed of and said I did not know that name.
It turns out he was a photographer for the newspaper well before I got there. And, my acquaintance said, "He's famous worldwide. He took more than 35,000 photographs of the Arch." For anyone not familiar with this St. Louis "landmark," he was was speaking of the Gateway Arch, the behemoth stainless steel structure on the Mississippi side of the downtown of the city. As an aside, as I have traveled around the United States with my other work, I have occasionally been surprised about people's knowledge or impression of the Arch. A handful have even thought it spanned the Mississippi instead of standing alongside it, as it does.
The accomplishment of having taken 35,000 photographs of the Arch still did not trigger a memory of this photographer. In my younger, more pithy days, my first thought would have been, "After 35,000, I hope he got it right." This day, it was probably my third or fourth thought. I wasn't sure this qualified the man to be "world famous," in part because I had not even heard of him. I could admire his persistance, like a terrier pulling on the same trouser leg for years.
As a native, I have not photographed the Arch other than taking the types of family snaphots that most people take. I can only speak for myself, but even with my equipment, training, and experience, my shapshots still look pretty much like everyone else's. For some reason, a few weeks ago, I was looking at my camera collection, waiting for some sort of sign of what to shoot next. The camera that spoke loudest to me was my Horizon 202, Russian-made panoramic. I have had this for several years and probably only run 10 or so rolls through it. So, I had chosen a camera. Now I needed something to shoot. The Arch came to mind. This seemed like such a plebian, touristy thing, but I was intrigued with the potential of using a wide format camera and its resulting distortions, a nice cloudy bright day, and some Adox 100 Art Series film I had been hoarding. These elements converged yesterday, and this is one of the resulting images. I plan on posting others on my portfolio page soon. There won't be 35,000 of them. I promise.