Dan Welton recalls a time in 1974 when he was on the side of the road trying to take a picture of a flower. An elderly lady came to her porch, asked what he was doing and invited him inside to visit.
Welton included her in the photography series he was doing on Century Farms in the Willamette Valley.
Times have changed since then, Welton says, and no one invites strangers inside anymore. But Welton still adheres to the same approach to photography that worked for him then — carry a camera everywhere and find the perfect moment.
His exhibit, “A (sort of) retrospective: 45 years of photography,” is a cross section of his career as a professional photographer and instructor at Lane.
“I wanted to make it as broad as possible,” Welton said about the exhibit. It includes photos he shot in the 1970s as well as more recent pictures of Italy and the Oregon Coast. The collection includes both color and black and white photos shot with film and digitally. “I’ve done quite a range of things,” he said.
Jennifer Salzman, LCC art gallery director, says that the exhibit helps reinforce what students are learning about photography in the classroom. “It’s really interesting for [students] to see the progression of someone over 45 years,” she said. Since the exhibit covers such a span of time, Salzman pointed out, it shows how photography can endure much longer than the short attention span of the Internet. “You start seeing the longevity of photos,” she said.
Many of the more recent photographs in Welton’s collection are marked by intense colors, though Welton says he does not digitally manipulate these photos to bring out the colors. Rather he says that he was simply in the right place at the right time with his camera.
The older photos in the collection are black and white, dating from Welton’s days as a graduate student at the University of Oregon. “I think it’s a very timeless medium,” Welton said about black and white photography. Among other projects, he used photographs to document some of the Century Farms in the Willamette Valley, capturing farmers in the midst of their daily chores.
His original goal, Welton recalls, was to be a photojournalist, but that goal didn’t work out as planned. “If you’re a good photojournalist you don’t have much of a personal life,” he said. Also, during that time, the best photojournalists were sent abroad to shoot photos in Vietnam, something Welton says he had no intention of getting involved in.
Even though photography was not considered a form of art at that time, Welton says he found a teacher at UO who was working on the kind of photography he wanted to pursue. During this time, he was able to develop an approach to photography that he describes as “photo documentary.”
His teaching career spans thirty years, begun when cameras were simpler and most of them had nearly the same design. “My first camera didn’t even have an exposure meter,” Welton said.
Welton does not try to tell students what makes a good picture, but helps them understand how to use their camera properly so that they can capture any sort of photo they want. “One of the things I liken it to is driving a stick shift,” he said about learning photography.
For beginning photography classes, Welton says he channels Vince Lombardi. He stands in front of the class, holds out a camera and says “This is a camera,” just like the famous football coach used to do with a football.
“A (sort of) retrospective: 45 years of photography” is in the Sister Gallery, located on the first floor of Building 11, and will run until Feb. 12.