Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My father would have been 90 today

Warren Westcott Grant
about 1940
My dad, Warren Westcott Grant, would have turned 90 years old today if he was still alive. Unfortunately, he died almost 7 years ago, on 22 January 2005, just eleven days after he turned 83 years old.

My dad learned photography when he was young, and probably while he was in high school. I think he took it up as a hobby partly because he was unable to participate in sports due to a heart murmur.  His best friend in high school, Matt Zuck, became an accomplished photographer and perhaps Dad and Matt learned together.

 At one point, my Dad intended to make photography his career. On his 1945 Army Separation papers, his civilian occupation was listed as "Photographer". I'm not sure how much professional photography he had accomplished by that point since he was 21 when he enlisted in the Army Air Force. I think the occupation title might have been aspirational!

However, it was either before Dad enlisted, or right after the war ended, when he did some industrial photography for his employer, Curtiss-Wright. At some point during the late 1940s, he started working as an engineer (also for Curtiss-Wright). This probably coincided with his graduation from Rutgers University in 1949. He took night classes there while he worked at Curtiss-Wright during the day. I guess at some point,  he realized that engineering was a better career choice for him than photography.

Cape Cod Windmill
By the time we kids were born, Dad was taking mostly just snapshots, but in the form of slides. After he received a Polaroid camera as a Christmas present from my Mom in the early 1960s, he switched to that. Around 1980, he started using the new inexpensive cameras that were coming on the market. He retained all his old knowledge and helped my brother and I set up a darkroom in our basement while we were in high school and  when we both got interested in photography. He taught me how to use a light meter.

Cape Cod house with interesting tree.
 Dad made this photo into a Christmas card

I still have Dad's cameras in a closet, in their original brown leather cases, alongside my old SLR (single lens reflex) camera body and lenses. I think I made the switch to point and shoot cameras about the time my kids were born, similar to my Dad. When digital cameras were introduced, I jumped into using my first digital camera. And now I usually just use the camera on my iphone...
Wellfleet, Massachusetts

I copied this last photo last summer when I visited Dad's cousin, Ken Skinner. Ken said my father took the photo and that he, Ken, was the person in the photo. Ken had another photo where he was standing in the same posture on the other side of the path. I guess Dad experimented to get the best photograph.

Most of Dad's early photos have not yet been digitized because they are on heavy glass slide mounts. I hope to get them all digitized in the not too distant future.