What was it like to take photographs of photographer José Galvez?
A little intimidating, to be honest, although Mr. Galvez was as nice as he could be. A former newspaper photographer whose credits include being part of a Pulitzer-prize winning team at the Los Angeles Times, and a long-time photographer in Arizona, Mr. Galvez spoke Monday afternoon at Mount Mercy University. It was an appearance sponsored by the Spanish Club, but also part of our Fall Faculty Series called “Building Walls, Building Bridges: The U.S. as an Immigrant Nation.”
As he read prepared remarks, his images flashed across the projected screen. He is a traditional photographer—film, with images printed in black and white.
To him, digital cameras make photographers lazy. He calls his digital camera his “Facebook camera,” and he still carries the film cameras to make images of American Hispanic life where he can find it.
His presentation made me a bit nostalgic for a time when boys would hang around newsrooms and journalism was a tradition often ingrained in the next generation by long association. Even though he had to go to college to become a photojournalist, nonetheless his roots are in that sort of apprentice tradition.
I get what he is saying about photographs. It required a bit more skill to use film—judging the light, thinking about aperture and f-stop, knowing there were only 36 frames on a roll and not wanting to waste any one.
I was a newspaper writer and editor. Also a photographer, but never a photojournalist—it was a sidelight to my writing. I think I was good at it, but I’m more of a wordsmith than a maker of images.
Still, I think that, besides the commitment that film required, the other attribute “old school” photographers have is storytelling—a sort of narrative sense. That you don’t just make pictures to get images, but you make pictures that have heart and soul and express something about the world you experience.
And there is an advantage to black and white. I haven’t worked in black and white for more than 20 years—but it forced you to think of light and shadow and shape in a way that color and digital photograph don’t.
It was a pleasure to listen to José Galvez. I’m glad our Spanish professor, Dr. Belkis Squarz, arranged for his appearance. Perhaps 30 people heard him speak—and there should have been more.
Still, it was an interesting presentation. And I loved seeing the world again in black and white. It almost made me smell the fixer.