When Watergirl asked if I would like to participate in this series, reflecting on my photographic journey, I frankly wondered if I could make a narrative out of what seems to me to be a meandering path to where I am today. I’m not a trained photographer or artist; I’m a research biologist who has dabbled in photography for decades. But with the help of some background history, both personal and familial, I decided I could make it work. At least it works for me. You, the worthy reader, will have to judge for yourself if that is true.
My photographic journey begins before I was born, since my father was a photographer from a very early age. All of my brothers and sisters got a camera (Brownie box camera, in my case) for our tenth birthday. My dad majored in photojournalism at Kansas State University, which coincidentally is the institution where I eventually found myself as a professor in the Biology Division. He graduated in 1942, which means that Pearl Harbor happened halfway through his senior year, and just everyone enlisted in the armed forces after graduation.
After basic training, his photojournalism background got him on track to go to war not as a combat soldier, but as an officer (eventually captain) in a Army Air Force photoreconnaissance unit that was shipped to North Africa in 1943 and then to Italy. I have lots of pictures that he took during the war, mostly from Italy. This is a personal favorite: the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1944. Those B-25s were not moved out of danger as the eruption started, even though this was the Pompeii Airfield… Most of them were destroyed. If you have read Catch-22, which is set in this same Italian theater, that probably sounds familiar.