In the hands of a master photographer, the eye of the camera can reveal more than you might expect to see.
Such is the case in “How I Saw It,” an exhibit of the work of Stockton camera artist Rich Turner, currently in its final week at the Tuleburg Gallery of Stockton’s Haggin Museum.
A retrospective collection culled from Turner’s long career as a newspaper and commercial photographer, the exhibit offers a broad range of subjects over a time span of fifty years.
The visitor here is treated to more than pictures on a wall. He senses not only Turner’s gift for visual storytelling, but the mind of the photographer at work, expressed throughout the show in Turner’s brief but informative notes accompanying each photo.
Photos and captions evoke Turner’s desire to capture more than a glance at the world around him, be it the shadows engulfing a lonely taxi driver on his night shift to the deep freeze of a Navy HC-130 flight crew (of whom Turner was a member) refueling their plane in the frozen isolation of Antarctica.
“My working life as a professional photographer has led me in countless directions,” the well-traveled Turner notes. “That eclecticism continues to hold my interest and keeps me trying to see rather than just look.”
What he shares with us is a world whose opportunities appeal to his sense of adventure and inspiration. It enables us to comprehend the challenge of finding the right frame, the correct angle and the right light in which to capture a moment in time that persists long beyond the moment.
Why, for example, shoot an otherwise ordinary sailboat on an ordinary stretch of a Delta river when you can capture beams of sunlight, unleashed by a deployed spinnaker sail, illuminating a river scene like a solar flare. Such a shot requires an instinct for opportunity, split second timing, and a gift for turning sunlight into an image of wonder. No small challenge even for a pro, but business as usual for Turner, whose eye invariably finds a treasure where others see little or nothing.
Here, one will find photo magic in the home stretch of a horse race, a view of a rainy day from a watery auto window, the tragedy inherent in an empty tricycle in the hands of a cop, the comedy of a wandering whale and the glory of sandhill cranes. A stunning punch from Stockton boxing great Yaqui Lopez is captured by Turner at ringside (“The obvious advantage is the viewpoint for photographs. The downside is the number of times the camera lens needs wiping.”)
Celebrities of one kind or another haunt the walls as well, including an unrecognizably youthful Joe Biden, a charitably inclined Muhammad Ali, a weary Jimmy Carter, an enthusiastic Jamie Lee Curtis on the verge of stardom, and the cowboy-attired, guitar-strumming Sons of the Pioneers, led in song by my cherished boyhood hero, Roy Rogers.
Here, too, are warmly human photo portraits of Stockton’s most influential movers and shakers—Alex Spanos happily clutching a football, Ort Lofthus aside the crosstown freeway named for him, Dino Cortopassi looking every inch a sportsman atop his motorcycle, and Dan Cort, whom Turner suggested posing in no ordinary position, taking a chance on a ledge above downtown Stockton.
All these worthies who come to life in Turner’s renderings are now deceased, leading one to wonder who has taken their place as civic contributors and stimulators—or if indeed their roles are replaceable.
Turner’s camera is our eye on the world of his photo sightseeing, capturing the wonders of everyday life and sometimes life far from the ordinary. It makes us linger and sense the creative discipline necessary for the photographer to seize the split second he needs to get the shot he wants. When we sense that, we can begin to appreciate how the medium of photography has been raised to an art.
“How fortunate I was to have been granted the privilege of wandering a fair bit of the world with camera in hand, recording tremendously diverse subjects,” Turner notes.
Visiting his exhibit can lead some of us to conclude that the privilege is ours. For these are the kinds of sights that lend one insight.
The exhibit of approximately 60 photographs runs through Sunday, January 15, 2023
A retired reporter and editor, Stockton resident Howard Lachtman has written Delta-centered detective stories, Stockton Civic Theatre reviews and a variety of baseball tales for Soundings. In 2006. he was honored by the Stockton Arts Commission for “24 years of superior review and commentary on the performing and literary arts in Stockton.”
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