The 505 – Wilbur Norman

Marble Sculpture at the Memorial for Lost Firefighters Cristopher Columbus Cemetery, Havana, 2015

Marble Sculpture at the Memorial for Lost Firefighters Cristopher Columbus Cemetery, Havana, 2015

The name says it all: 5 questions, 5 images, in an echolocation allusion to the primary area code of New Mexico. The 505 is an interview format highlighting ASMP photographers, new and emerging. 

Where did you grow up, and how did you come to live in New Mexico?
I am from the hills and valleys on the Ohio fringes of Appalachia. Before coming to New Mexico I lived in places both cosmopolitan and primitive. Experiencing September 11 in Washington, DC gave us the push we needed to leave there and find a quieter life. After much international travel and searching we settled in the Land of Enchantment.

Wilbur Norman - Richie Havens at the Bijou Philadelphia, 1982
© Wilbur Norman – Richie Havens at the Bijou
Philadelphia, 1982

2. What lessons has photography taught you? 
Everyone goes on about ‘seeing’, really seeing. But one quickly learns – or doesn’t, that it is life, the act of living and the myriad experiences we have that allow one to ‘see’ with any clarity, precision or passion. Equipment – and I love all the gear and gadgets as much as the next person, is learnable, expendable and ultimately knowable. It is this love of the physical stuff of photography that may be an easily shared, communal experience. But living, learning and integrating life experience into our work is the thing that makes each of us and our vision unique; that allows us to ‘see’ emotionally. It’s a continuous journey and is, I believe, what makes photographers bounce out of bed ready to absorb the new images and experiences that confront us daily!

Wilbur Norman - Making Life Better Kenya, 2008
© Wilbur Norman – Making Life Better Kenya, 2008

3. What person has most influenced you, or your photography? Can you tell me about him or her?
As a self-taught image-maker I don’t have any one single, formative influence in photography that I can name. I have always been sorry that I never took any courses in photography, but I have always loved the dark and that led me as a youngster to an interest in the chiaroscuro painting of the old masters. Their handling of light & shadow was superb. In photography we all love the founders of Magnum but it was George Rodger who most captured my attention. His work during the Second World War and, later, in Africa was superb. I have also loved the work of Bill Brandt, Max Penson, Dorothea Lang, Humphrey Spender, Fan Ho, Marc Riboud, Lola Álvarez Bravo and Ernest Cole. I have many contemporary photographer friends so naming any of them and leaving out others will only get me into hot water!

Street Musicians Havana, 2015
© Wilbur Norman – Street Musicians, Havana, 2015

4. Do you have any passions or talents outside of your work?
Unfortunately, loads of them… well… passions, not talents! Among the many are music, wine, old books and neolithic cultures around the world (I was formerly an anthropologist.)

Young Monkey in Concentration Swayambunath Temple, Kathmandu, 2017
© Wilbur Norman – Young Monkey in Concentration
Swayambunath Temple, Kathmandu, 2017

5. If you could photograph anyone or anything living now or at any point in history, who would it be and why? What camera would you want to use?
That’s a tough question! While I am tempted to pick either the period of the American Revolution or the Golden Age of Greece, I will have to go with the years of The Enlightenment. So many of the ideas we hold today have their genesis in this period of world history. To photograph the great thinkers, artists and inventors of this time would be bliss. And, importantly, right now we could use a good dose of the rationality put forward by that age’s greatest minds.

The second part of the question is easy: the camera for such a shoot would be my trusty black-paint Leica M4 with a Summicron 35mm lens. Through the years it became an extension of my hand and eye. Plus, as a film camera it is not dependent upon digital technology. Black and white film is, I hope, for the ages.

 

See more of Wilbur Norman’s work at: http://wilburnorman.com/