He would ask for a still life lit with one light source or a portrait of my sister jumping rope, with the purpose of my learning the importance of shutter speeds. I would go into the basement darkroom where I soon realized how a good edit would effect the outcome of the assignment.
With dried prints in hand we would meet on Sunday night where my father would critique my work. Instead of watching Lassie, we would first look at a slide show of his own work which was painful to sit through. He was an avid golfer and his photography consisted of shots of every hole on the course whether a par 3 or longer. In the Kodak carousel each slide was carefully analysed discussing all issues – light source, ASA, shutter speeds and, most importantly for him, composition. He struggled with trying to make the work cohesive, but I always thought it was cohesive enough.
It then came time to critique my prints and I would wait with anticipation while he studied every offering. The only words that I remember to this day were ‘go back and try again’. Maybe that was not what was said exactly, but my Father never went as far as saying it was a good picture, but would say it had ‘potential’. He was fond of quoting Ansel Adams and would say things like ‘There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.’
I went to on study photography both in high school and in college eventually studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York. On my 30th Birthday my father ceremoniously gave me his Leicaflex SL2 50th Year Anniversary Edition camera with 5 lenses. My father had a injury and, as time went on, his hands shook so much he couldn’t hold a camera.
This camera is quite special as only a few were produced for the 50th Anniversary of Leica. I use this camera everyday. My entire portfolio for Not In Your Face is taken with the Leicaflex SL2.
Sadly, my father never got to see my newly published book T: A Typology of T-Shirts. It is a 220 page book with 245 colour plates printed at EBS in Italy. As my father’s profession involved offset printing and the manufacture of paper, he would have been thrilled to see the pages flying off the printing press. I would love to go through its pages with him and see his reaction. He would be proud of his paragraph in the Acknowledgements. I would hope this time he would have said ‘well done.’”
The book is available now at www.dewilewis.com. Last Fall the photos were exhibited at the Leica Galerie in L.A..