by Steven Doyle
Local photographer Leonard Volk has had a storied life, one filled with interest and intrigue. Now a retired architect, Volk once served his country in the Counter Intelligence Corps. As an active community volunteer Volk helped shape the landscape of Dallas. Recently Volk’s collection of photographs were published and his work has been on display throughout the country.
You may meet the Volk Tuesday, December 18, 2012 from 5:30 to 7:30 at Gallerie Noir in the Design District which is located at 1525 Dragon Street. We offer you a chance to know Volk through this special Q&A we hope you enjoy.
We are also giving away a signed copy of Everyday to one very special reader who we will select at random among any comments left below. We will select a winner on Tuesday, December 18, 2012.
Everyday is a collection of photographs you began taking in the 1950s to capture special moments in your life. What inspired your passion for photography?
It began with my travel in Europe in 1950, interest in the arts, purchase of a good camera, and desire to remember sights I found significant. Everyday subject matter got my attention in 1958 when my new equipment let me focus on objects 1”x1.5” or larger. Small subjects became a new world to explore.
At what age did you pick up your first camera, and what kind was it?
I can’t remember the first, but I liked to use a Kodak Brownie when I was little to take pictures of our Chihuahuas, special family happenings, vacation trips, and that rarity for a Dallasite – snow.
Are you a photographer by profession now?
No. My work is now personal photography. Photography is a passion for me, not a business.
When did you know you had a real gift?
I don’t know that. I think we are all artists. I have noticed that the subjects I choose tend to differ from those of my fellow photographers. I like theirs. I hope they like mine.
What intrigues you about photography?
Uniqueness. I feel blessed when I can seize a unique subjectat a unique moment and share it with a friend.
How would you compare your work to other famous photographers?
I don’t. I have no models, but many inspirers. I am an enthusiastic fan of other photographers, both famous and unknown like me. I love to look at other people’s work.
How would describe your style?
Thingy. I tend to pack the frame. I insist on visual interest. I like order, but not too much of it. I seek subjects and situations with references outside the frame.
Who do you most relate to in the field of renowned photographers and why?
My photographer heroes and heroines are numerous: Cartier Bresson, Edward and Brett Weston, Callahan, Siskind, Strand, Minor White, Kertesz, Lartigue, Dorothea Lange, Bill Brandt, Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Elliott Erwitt, and Paul Caponigro, in no particular order, and many more.
But I don’t analyze them. I enjoy and appreciate their work.
I believe we are all artists if we allow ourselves that freedom. — Leonard Volk
Everyday is mesmerizing. What are some of the stories behind the images?
Here is one: “In 2007 Nancy and I went to Japan for a month, traveling more than 12000 miles round trip. Two days after returning home, I found a dozen keeper images 12’ from our front door. Each photo captured a dried oak leaf casting a long dramatic shadow on driveway pavement in late afternoon sunlight. Shadows suggested life, movement, dance, and related feelings. In shadow, where light was least, one could see best into the paved surface. My bias that significant subjects are at my elbow was again confirmed. “
Who will benefit from reading Everyday?
I hope casual photographers, beginning photographers, art students, and fans of photography will enjoy my work, and perhaps be stimulated and encouraged to make their own everyday collections.
How does your book differ from other photography books?
I have written about my experiences in photography that have led me to conclusions I share through my essays. These touch on subjects I have not found in essays by other photographers or critics. I stand by my conclusions but believe each must reach his own.
Most books of photographs are specialized. My collection of photographs differs in that it displays the diversity one would expect in a selection from more than sixty years of living and working.
My experiences as an architect and designer are part of my being and point of view. My background differs from most photographers.
What is your take-away message for inspiring photographers?
You are unique. No one else could select the subject you care about.No one else would make the same photograph. Do your best.
What insight do you hope photography students will gain by reading your book?
Be yourself. Begin to make your own visual vocabulary. Begin to let your inner critic grow. Let another photographer be your inspiration but not your model.