Q&A: Raymond Meeks


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? In this past year, I’ve tried to say “yes” to every opportunity that presents itself as a way of entering through doors that are opened for me. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? The ubiquitous smart phone and how many of us were glued to tiny screens. Are you aware of any conspiracies? Barack Obama’s third term?  Yes, please. What is it that interests you about photography? Seeing. I don’t know that I would slow myself to witness and attempt some understanding of the places and events I’m drawn to photograph. And, making. I mistakenly thought photography would be a quicker route than say, painting. I’ve not truly invested in painting, but am convinced now that it’s just as long to make meaningful work in photography. What is the worst thing about city life? The ratio of people to trees is higher. What part of the planet would you like to explore? Galapagos and the Archipelago of volcanic islands South of Ecuador. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? A positively charged neutrino as one possible explanation for the healing potential of prayer. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? Tough one….to identify a leader who guided with an absence of ego? I’m inclined to align with a woman; Elanor Roosevelt.  She led from behind. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. I’m partial to the social sciences. Anthropology. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? There isn’t one moment that stands out from thousands, since it’s most often when I’m without a camera that I urgently feel the need for one. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Winterkeeper at Yellowstone National Park.

Describe the most important photo you’ve seen.  Of importance for me, (and the sentimental response) is the photo of my son (Adam) and daughter (Abbey) that has always hung next to my desk.  They’re at ages 3 and 5.  It’s tender, imperfect, generous, vulnerable and portends the dynamics of their adult relationship, in which they remain best of friends. Unconditionally and with boundless tolerance and forgiveness for the places they differ.  They love each other. How often do you take other people’s advice? Rarely. I ask for it and intend to accept but more often defer to my impulses/intuitions. I have great people in my life, so should probably start listening and following. Describe a personal hell. To move about in this world without a spark. I graduated high school with few committed interests so decided I’d enter college to study business and take over my father’s insurance business in Columbus, Ohio when he was ready to retire. I know what it is, now…to feel passionately about the work I do… something I lacked prior to purchasing a used camera (with no working knowledge on how to use it) in order to make a few portraits of my grandmother. Which living person do you most admire? If I could combine two beings– as a cross-grained form–my son and daughter. Otherwise, Marilynne Robinson. On what occasion do you lie? I suppose when truth is relative(always) and non-essential and stands to hurt someone I love. There have been many less scrupulous occasions, of course. Usually involving the IRS. What was the last crime you witnessed? I paid $22 at a single tollgate on the New Jersey Turnpike earlier this month. What is the best way to educate yourself? Walk all 490 miles of the Camino de Santiago (or various pilgrimages), introduce yourself along the way and beg for stories. What is the next book you want to read?  Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. (3rd time). I’m slowly winding my way through “Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy, now. I’m a painfully slow reader.

Ultimate camera?  A 5×7 SLR, that would allow me to affix any lens and work without a tripod. I had a 5×7 Graflex for a short while, it was like a small factory and ultimately self-destructed under the weight of its bulk and machinery. Most used camera?  Toss-up.  Pentax 67 or Lumix gf1. What object do you want?  The 5×7 SLR would do just fine. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? You get to recycle all those encyclopedias and no longer have to hide your porn collection. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? I’d gladly trade some of my physical strength for mental acuity. Describe a cheap thrill. Floating on my back in a deep, backwoods quarry watching the Perseid meteor shower on a perfectly clear night with my girlfriend. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. 1936 Nipomo, California. Dorthea Lange introducing herself and photographing Florence Owens Thompson (“migrant mother”).  Balancing sensitivity with the urgency behind making those pictures.  I’m not sure I’d make any pictures, but, as is often the case, my camera would be my access. Portraits are the most difficult for me to make. More often, I fail to negotiate the proper way to ask someone if I could photograph them. Are impulses more important than consequences? I don’t believe so.  no. Which talent would you most like to have? Musical. Singing or playing any number of instruments. Next life, for sure. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? I get to repurpose some old clothbound print envelopes that were made for anotherproject into a folder with a tray to hold a variety of printed materials; digital and anaolog, made from recent summer work. My first efforts at making an unbound, un-ordered narrative. But first, a long bike ride.

Raymond Meeks — Cabbage White (A series in progress). See more of Raymond’s work here.