Photograph What You Love

Someone once told me the "city was my palette". I rather like that. When I tell someone I'm a photographer and I live in Montana, they'll invariably think of beautiful scenery, wildlife, that sort of thing. I did try taking what I ended up calling "postcard photos" or "calendar photos", but soon tired of that. So many others do a much better job at that than I.

I spent much of my life in cities, and rather attractive ones at that. And so I became attuned to what makes an urban environment pleasing and even nurturing, as opposed to a visual environment that can be dispiriting.

When I moved here over twenty years ago, I was not new to Montana. I made my first trip here 59 years ago this summer, in 1961. Like many visitors, I came to be in awe of the powerful landscape, the sense of space. We made many more trips here as my wife's family were homesteaders and ranchers in Sweetgrass County.

I took photographs of the scenery, to be sure. But I was also drawn to the beauty of the small towns, the vernacular architecture and historic buildings in our larger cities such as Billings. That's been pretty much my focus wherever I've lived in previous years.

Lately I've been concentrating on the essence of a building, the details that give it a distinct character. My intent is to highlight those and other aspects of our built environment. And photographing in black and white helps us concentrate on the form, texture, and play of light on a building.

Finally, if we can make our urban areas more attractive, we will encourage people to want to move back to the cities and towns, lessening the impact of sprawl on our agricultural and wilderness lands.

In closing, here's a challenge: what will make our places attract people? The last two folders, A Glass Half-Empty and A Glass Half-Full, can start a conversation around that question. What can you do to make your community more attractive?

Paul Whiting

Billngs, Montana