Derek Mason Photographs

I got stationed at Travis AFB right after Tech. School.  It’s this large base in northern California, north of San Francisco.   From day one I was unhappy.  When I was in the Base Exchange one weekend, I bought this really nice 35mm camera because this guy I knew in Tech. School got one.  I’ve always wanted a kind of camera like that.

I don’t know if it was right afterwards or sometime later, but I walked into the Hobby Shop.  It’s this place where you can work on hobbies…..anything from woodworking to automotives to photography.  I noticed that they have classes and so I asked about it.  The guy running the darkrooms told me it’s better if I take the class for the darkroom, cause anybody can take a photo, but if you know what’s going on after you take a picture, you can take better pictures.  He’s this skinny guy with a limp.  There was a class coming up soon so I needed to take a roll of b&w film.  Just take pictures of nything……it didn’t matter.

I took random shots of things around me and on the base.  I had a few shots left and really didn’t know what to take.  I wanted it to be interesting.  I looked out of my window on the top floor of a three story dorm building, in the corner.  I saw this woman in a long white dress, like a bride or something, standing in the grassy area with some guy talking. I zoomed in to see what they were doing.  He walked away and I took a picture.  Just then she turned and started to walk.  I took a few more before she caught up with the guy.

The class I took lasted about an hour…..I wound up staying a few hours after hanging out with Troy, who was in charge of the darkroom.  He was fascinated by this woman in my photos.  She turned out to be a girlfriend of my room-mate.

I would go into the darkroom to escape from the crap of the military. So, I was taking pictures that were not necessarily military.  I had a particular interest in reflections and objects being reflected.  Was I trying for an altered meaning?  Maybe.

I don’t know what I was doing or how I came up with the idea, but I decided to see if I could have my photos hanging in the cafeteria in the hospital where I worked.  I asked and was able to get permission. I set out to have nine 8.5 x 11 photos matted to 11 x 14.  They supplied the frames as part of regs.  Funny shit.  I used good paper and a process that would preserve them for a long time.  The ninth picture got slightly ruined when
I was drying it.  I forgot where it is or what happened to it.  I made only one copy and one set of the pictures.
I see them as a set.  Like a story.  The photos hung there until I left the military and went back to Cleveland.

A friend of the family is an artist and was in charge of a gallery in a hallway by Pier W restaurant.  She needed to fill up space and I thought why not.  I had gotten into writing more and more poetry and started to print up some books.  I use my photos as covers for them.  I think it made them far more interesting.

I remember sitting in Jean’s office one day and I wanted to have my own poetry reading…..to do something just because.  I mentioned to Jean off handedly about me doing a poetry reading and having my photos hanging up.  Jean was busy with business and gave a vague answer.  All I wanted to do was have a poetry reading and let people see the photos I did. Jean finally told me there might be a weekend where there’s a change of shows.

All I wanted to do was hang up my eight photos, but she insisted that I need more than that.  I think I pulled out almost everything I had.  We pasted  a bunch of contact sheets and 5 x 7’s onto chipboards.  Jean kept insisting that there is a correct way of hanging photos up; “….but I want this one here….,” was my only answer.  I ended up hanging them wherever I wanted to because I was the artist.  As it turned out, the middle spot on the large wall was a blank spot.  The arrangement was sort of random, but it formed a certain flow that went thru the room.

Derek Mason  Photographs  July 31 – August 2, 1992
with the Midsummer Urban Drudge & Sludge Poetry reading

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