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