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         Eric Overton was born in Fairfax County, Virginia on July 23, 1965 – although he waited precisely seven years to the day to begin his photographic career on July 23, 1972.  It was on that day that his parents gave him a box camera and a roll of Verichrome Pan for his 7th birthday.  The rest is very nearly history.
        Having been earlier tagged as a “slow learner,” nobody expected much of Eric, and he therefore found tremendous freedom to explore and experiment in everything he did.  He recalls:

        “This was back in the days when if the rest of the morning kindergarten class finished its chocolate pudding snack well before you did, the so-called ‘educators’ figured you must be ‘remedial’ in some fashion.
        “I was a very quiet, solitary kid; and while my peers were being labeled ‘genius’ for being gregarious, I was being labeled ‘slow’ for being off in my own corner most of the time.  While everybody else enjoyed social games, I could sit by myself and paint for hours.  It didn’t take too much of that behavior before my kindergarten teacher, Miss Cummings, tagged me as something of a dimwit.  It seems she skipped right over ‘future artist’ when she made her assessment.  Not that I’m at all bitter about it.  In retrospect, it was one of the most liberating labels ever put on me.  I feel genuinely sorry for the kids who get labeled as ‘gifted’ too early in life.  They really get no room to maneuver.”

        When somebody handed him a camera on his 7th birthday, nobody expected great art; and he got plenty of latitude to make mistakes.
        Over the next four years, Eric largely taught himself the nuts and bolts of photography.  He was fond of books, and his father’s library provided quite a few tomes on the subject of photography.  He also lived within easy biking distance of the local library.
        And in about 1974, he found some of his grandfather’s old cameras in a closet in his father’s home office.
        Eric’s grandfather had been a stuntman in the early days of Hollywood, working for Vitaphone Pictures (Brooklyn, NY) and standing in for Douglas Fairbanks on many of the “pirate” films of the 1920’s.  After Vitaphone sold to RCA, the young Robert Overton (Eric’s granddad) continued to live and work in New York, serving as a reservist in the coast artillery.  When W.W.II broke out, he found himself in Third Army and later on Lucius Clay’s staff in blockaded Berlin.  It was during that postwar period (when fine camera equipment could be had from what was left of the bombed-out Zeiss factory for the cost of a few cigarettes and some whiskey), that Lt. Col. Overton collected the Exakta’s and Zeiss lenses that eventually wound up in a closet in Virginia.
        Eric thus learned to shoot with some vintage gear.

        “My first serious stab at mastering the technical side of photography came when I was about 10 years old, and I began shooting with one of the old Kodak Bantam 828’s.  It was a great learner’s camera, and if I could still get 828 film easily, I’d probably be carting it around with me today – if only to take the occasional impromptu snapshot.  It and the Minox – which took much smaller format film – were among the first ‘pocket cameras.’
        “The first roll of film I ever ran through it was one of the old K19 Kodachromes, and I learned the meaning of the term ‘exposure latitude’ pretty quickly.  But after a while, I got the hang of it, and I was correctly exposing both B&W print and color reversal films.  Since the Bantam was not a single lens reflex camera and had only a crude sight on it (and no exposure meter whatsoever), I learned to see light and be very careful about composition pretty early on.  Lack of much money to buy film also made me particularly careful – and stingy – in making exposures.
        “If I had to teach anyone photography now, I’d probably start him on a similar camera.  Four years of shooting with only my own eye for a light meter gave me an intuitive feel for light that you never get if your first camera is auto-exposure, auto-focus, auto-loading, etc.  And for me today, even though my primary cameras have auto-exposure modes (though never auto-focus), I can still tell when my camera’s metering is lying to me.  I’m also pretty comfortable switching all the computers off and flying the things purely stick-and-rudder.  Frankly, there are some shots that you’re simply not going to get any other way.  Auto-exposure cameras are set to compensate to 18% density, not to place exposure zones anywhere near where they’ll capture emotion on film.  And all auto-focus does is put the point of focus where the camera thinks there’s some point of interest in the frame – usually at the center.  This is why most auto-exposed / auto-focused images are so emotionally sterile.  It’s also why they all look like they were shot by the same slightly-better-than-average amateur.”

        What certainly helped matters was the fact that Eric’s father shared his interest, and his mother was working from time to time as a model.  Photography was the norm at home.
        In 1976, Eric got his first “modern” 35mm single lens reflex camera, a Mamiya DSX500.  The choice was largely made based on his father’s already owning the 1000DTL version of the Mamiya.  The objective was to make their accessories interchangeable.  This was the first camera Eric owned that had a built-in light meter, although its exposure settings were all purely manual.
        1977 was a banner year for Eric.  It was then that he took his first stab at home developing, buying a “developing kit” for $12 at the local photo store.

        “For $12, you didn’t get a lot – but it was enough.  Included in the kit were a rather cheap plastic developing tank (that was an absolute pill to load), a few small (and equally cheap) 4x5 trays, a little contact printing frame, a few plastic clothespins, and just enough Dektol developer, Kodak fixer, and 4x5 Kodabromide paper to develop one roll and contact print it.  My first home-developed roll of film immortalized Mrs. Ziff’s 6th grade class on 20 exposures of 35mm Tri-X Pan.  As I recall, developing time was only 5 minutes at 68F, and the negatives were still incredibly dense.  Dektol is a paper developer; and I was throwing it, undiluted, at a piece of film for no other reason than that I didn’t know any better.
        “Thinking back, if I’d had the $34 for the more ‘advanced’ developing kit (which came with a crude enlarger molded in plastic – with an equally cheap plastic lens), I’d have bought it.  But $34 was several months’ income from mowing lawns and shoveling snow, so enlargements were out my financial reach.  For the better part of two years I only contact printed, examining the prints afterward with a magnifying glass.”

        1977 was also the year in which Eric won his first photo award (a Kodachrome shot of a tiger at the National Zoo that caught the eye of an editor of the Washington Post) and did his first job for money (baby photos of the newborn across the street).

        “To this day, when people ask how long I’ve been doing this for pay, I say, ‘since 1977.’  My being in the business over 20 years seems to put clients at ease.  I suspect that they assume that if I were a hack, after all that time I would have bilged out.”

        1977 was, additionally, the year when the movie Star Wars hit the silver screen.

        “Star Wars had an incredible impact on a 12 year old kid.  I’d been photographing the moon and making time exposures of swirling stars for a few years, and I’d always been looking up.  It was about this time that I’d also managed to get my hands on a small refractor telescope and was regularly looking at Jupiter’s moons or Saturn’s rings.
        “The timing of Star Wars coming out was therefore quite serendipitous.  I mean, here I’d been learning all this darkroom stuff, and suddenly Smithsonian magazine (a staple in our household) was running an article on how all the special effects were done.  I was already building and flying model rockets, and I wanted to do similar tricks with cameras as were done by John Dykstra and the original crew at Industrial Light and Magic.  I realized pretty quickly that what was missing in my repertoire was an ability to process color reversal films and high contrast B&W lithography films in order to make multiple-matte composite images.
        One of the great things about being 12 years old and being into something the other kids aren't is that nobody has any notion of what you can and can't do. And 12 year olds are often too naive to know what's easy and what's hard. So I spent the winter of 1977-1978 learning about the then-new Ektachrome E6 process and how to handle various litho emulsions and developers.  (This was something somebody with more knowledge would have labeled "difficult.") I bought my first E6 kit with most of a month’s pay from shoveling snow.  Fortunately, 1977-78 was a snowy enough winter to underwrite my chemical purchases.  Most of the lab glassware was Mason jars and beer cans at that point.
        “It was also around this time that I took my first stab at making a motion picture.  The title was Spaced Out, and it contained no actual actors.  But it was a pretty impressive effort at motion picture special effects, considering it was made by a 12-year-old working with one of his grandfather’s 50-year-old hand-me-down ‘Vitaphone Pictures’ 16mm silent cameras.  Two and a half minutes of film hardly made it ‘feature length,’ but I somehow managed to watch it again and again without getting too bored.  I just bored everyone else with it, I guess.
        “I remember renting a 16mm projector from the public library to show it to my friends.  The projector was set up for optical sound, and the silent film had sprockets where the soundtrack would have been.  When I first turned the projector to ‘run,’ the volume was cranked all the way up and the thing made a God awful buzz as the sprocket holes ran by.”

        Eric’s parents couldn’t help but notice their son’s interest in both darkroom photography and rocket ships; and with the newly opened of the National Air and Space Museum within easy striking distance of their Virginia home, Eric was encouraged to visit the museum frequently and take photos when he went.

        “After a while, I’d seen everything I could at ‘Air and Space,’ and I started to wander into the other Smithsonian buildings on the Washington mall.  It was only a matter of time before I found myself in the art museums.”

        Again, turning up in the National Gallery of Art was a serendipitous event.

        “I wandered into the National Gallery about the time that Ansel Adams was visiting and guest lecturing.  Everyone else stood somewhat in awe of him.  I had no clue who the man was, and as a consequence he just struck me as one more person who could tell me a few things about photography.  I had a lot of questions at that point.
        “I remember attending an evening lecture and pretty much getting up in the poor guy’s face afterward.  But as nearly as I can tell, after a whole evening spent with people fawning over him, having a precocious 13-year-old say, ‘Hey, old man… How’d you make that photo?’ was something of a relief to him.  I got a few good tips that night – not least of which was to strive to master the craft of photography and resist the temptation to try to pass off inferior technique with a claim of ‘artistic expression.’  I sensed that if Ansel had been my trumpet teacher, I’d have been practicing lots of scales.  In any case, his admonition to be a craftsman made a strong impression.  I have some regret that I wasn’t older and more experienced in the craft when I met him; but he died just a few years later.
        “I count myself lucky that I met him at all, and I’ve crossed paths with a few of his protégés since then.  In all cases, strong dedication to craftsmanship is a trait they’ve shared.  That more than anything was probably Ansel’s legacy.”

        With some persistence, Eric convinced his father that he could do the darkroom work for them both if he had a real enlarger.  Part of the bargain was that Eric would be responsible for printing those of his father’s photographs that would grace a basement room that the family was remodeling.

        “That was when I backed myself into a real corner.  My dad hadn’t worked in B&W for years, and just about everything he wanted to hang on the wall – mainly shots from Vietnam and Cambodia taken just a few years before – had been shot to early 1970's vintage Kodachrome 64.  But I wanted an enlarger badly, and I was prepared to make just about any Faustian bargain to get one.  So learning to make Cibachrome color prints from slides was unavoidable.
        “Fortunately, after getting a good handle on the E6 color reversal process, the Cibachrome P3 process wasn’t quite so daunting.”

        By the time Eric hit high school and the rest of the boys were discovering girls, Eric was discovering chemistry.

        “Frankly, my friends and I were the prototypes for Beavis and Butt-Head.  We were a bunch of pyromaniacs.  If there was so much as the slightest chance that something would burn or explode, we were into it in a big way.”

        Eric at that point had the good fortune to cross paths with a talented and encouraging high school chemistry teacher.

        “I didn’t know it at the time, but Mr. Lavallee was teaching two or three of us college level material as high school freshmen and sophomores.  It was only when I got to college – an Ivy league college no less – and placed out of the entire freshman year and half of the sophomore year of chemistry that I realized just how much the man had taught us.  My hat’s off to him for doing so much – and somehow still managing to prevent us from blowing ourselves up in the process.”

         Ironically, at this point, most of photo chemistry remained out of Eric’s grasp.

         “I knew about the Gurney-Mott latent image hypothesis, of course.  And I understood that developers were alkaline – and usually something organic.  But that was about it.  The back of John Hedgecoe’s book The Book of Photography had a few formulae for the more common B&W developers, but exotic chemicals with names like ‘hydroquinone’ weren’t in the Woodson High School chemistry lab.  And potassium nitrate was.  So I blew things up instead.”

         It would be a few more years before Eric got deeply into photochemistry.  But when he got there, he was very well prepared.
         Following high school, Eric took a job with his father’s employer, the Central Intelligence Agency.  It was there that someone had the presence of mind to assign him to the job of “Film Inspector” and transfer him out of the assignment initially proposed for him – a clerical job in the in-house bomb disposal unit.  In his new photo job, he had plenty of opportunity to develop a keen eye for details on film, frequently working with the crew at the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC).

         “The Agency experience was an interesting one to say the least.  For years, I’d wondered about what my dad did at the office; and now I was seeing it firsthand on a day-to-day business.  I also learned a few things about myself just in the process of getting accepted into the place.  A few of the psychological tests turned up some unusual personality traits, and learning about them at age 18 sure beat learning about them the hard way later in life.  Until I’d taken a few of those tests, I’d assumed that I was pretty much like everyone else in the world.  Afterward, I knew that I had an extremely rare personality type.  That of itself was an eye opener.  There was a humorous moment in there when somebody asked me about drug use, I indicated that I’d never done any drugs at all, and the needles on the box indicated that I was telling the truth.  At that point, the examiner leaned across the table and said, ‘You mean you got this way naturally?’
         “This was also, frankly, an interesting juncture in Agency history – from a photoreconnaissance point of view, anyway.  The Blackbird fleet was slowly being phased out in favor of satellites, and film was giving ground to electronic imaging.  There were the old-timers who’d sat staring into endless reels of film that had come off the U2’s that overflew Cuba and spotted the Soviet missiles in the bushes.  And there was a younger generation of folks as well.  But nobody was wedded to any technology – folks just chose whatever got the job done.  I still marvel, though, at how some of the older guys could send literally hundreds of feet of film by on a scanner at speeds where they’d look like a blur to anyone else, and then stop the film on a dime and point to something interesting.
         “Like it or not, you didn't hang with those guys for long without developing a seriously good eye for detail.”

         Returning to school, Eric matriculated at Dartmouth College, where through a rather circuitous path (pardon the pun), he wound up in the engineering school studying to be an electrical engineer.  Aside from honing his skills in the hard sciences in ways that would later improve his photo lab technique, studying engineering also served his photo interests in some highly unpredictable ways.

         “Dartmouth’s engineering school had a pretty tight connection to the med school.  There were two fairly prominent cross-disciplinary activities in that regard.  One was hyperthermia research – where the engineers built special microwave antennas designed to cook your brain tumors from the inside out.
         “The one in which my photo skills came into play, however, was in orthopedics.  For quite some time, the local hospital had seen high numbers of hip and knee fractures – between old people who slipped on the ice and skiers who’d screwed up on the slopes.  And the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center had become a magnet for people interested in hip and knee replacement surgery.
         “The engineering school was thus heavily funded to help design better prostheses.  Of particular interest was the subject of how well bone grew into a titanium hip implant.  The engineering school would send artificial hips across campus to the hospital, and the hospital would send cadaver femurs back the other direction, so that the engineers could put them on the tensile tester and see how hard they had to pull to yank them back out.
         “We had a little chamber of horrors in the basement, and since dogs were everywhere on campus (including the classrooms and labs), it wasn’t all that unusual to see a group of students chasing a dog with a femur in its mouth down one of the basement hallways.  Keeping them out of the lab was tough.
         “My connection to all this was that more than once I got to photograph some one or another test for somebody’s journal paper.  And on a few occasions, I ended up at the other end of campus photographing the disassembly procedure in which the femur was retrieved.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but you don’t have to sit in on too many autopsies before you start figuring out basic anatomy.
         “Occasionally these days I’ll get asked how old I was the first time I photographed the nude.  My usual response is that I was 20.  I don’t bother to mention that the model was deceased.”

         On off terms, Eric parlayed his electrical engineering skills into a job as an engineer at a radio station back home in the Washington DC area.  It was at this time that he began to photograph live models, most of whom were women.

         “When I got back to Virginia during an off term from college, I wandered into a local radio station.  I had no idea whether they had engineering jobs or not; but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.  The minute I came in, somebody asked me if I was responding to the ad in the paper.  Thinking quickly, I said yes.  Twenty minutes later I had a job.  Blind dumb luck, that.
         “When summer rolled around, the station got into full swing with promotions.  We were playing Top 40 music, and we were always out at the bars where the younger crowd hung out.  I got to know Georgetown like the back of my hand.
         “One of the station’s salesmen had some heavy connections to Coppertone suntan products, and somebody else was tight with the owner of a bar called ‘Annie’s of Georgetown.’  One thing led to another, and pretty soon every Sunday night the station crew was down there running a bikini contest and passing out tubes of ‘Panama Jack’ suntan oil.
         “At that point, I was making a little side money shooting headshots for people I knew in the radio and TV business, and word was getting out that I was pretty good with a camera.  It was only a hop, skip and a jump from there to picking up extra cash shooting bits and pieces of the modeling portfolios of the girls who turned up every week for the bikini contests.  Some of them were college students earning some loose change and book money, and some of them were – if you can believe it – professional bikini contest contestants.  Only in America.  Is this a great country or what?
        “Anyway, what I started finding out was that I had a natural eye for photographing the human form.  All those autopsies paid off, I guess.
         “But unlike the women I’d photographed before, these came fully assembled.”

         Eric also spent time abroad at this point in his life.  Studying at the Ecole Normale in Blois, France, he had a unique opportunity to photograph much of Europe, and he made the most of it.

         I was spending weekends in Paris sightseeing – and occasionally working illegally with a camera to pocket a few extra Francs.  I was also making short excursions into the countryside around Blois – which sits squarely in the heart of the Loire valley’s wine country.  I was not far from DaVinci’s home at Clos-Luce; and Chenonceaux, probably the most beautiful of all the French chateaux was also no more than about an hour by train. Seeing the home of the maestro or soaking up the light coming off the Loire onto the chateau that quite literally straddles the river can't help but make an impression.
         “Plus, a lot of the local travel I did by hitchhiking.  Hitching is not easy in France, by the way.  You spend a lot of your time walking rather than riding, and when you walk, you have time to see your surroundings.  I saw a lot of stuff that the natives regarded as ‘banal.’  But even the mundane can be interesting when you really take the time to look at it.  And since it was often a whole day shot just trying to get one ride, I had the time to spend looking.
         “I became convinced after a few months of living there that there’s something just a little bit different about the quality of light in France.  Logically, I know there’s no basis for that statement, but I think it true nonetheless.  In any case, there was a lot of beautiful light by which to make photographs.”

         When Eric finally did leave school – earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering – he took his first job in the field of electro-optics with a firm in the research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.  This, however, began a period when he took a sabbatical from his photo career.

         “Basically, when I left school, I realized I could make about four times as much money as an engineer as I could as a photographer.  And when you’ve got debts from school, pay scale factors pretty heavily into your thinking.
         “Honestly, though, I was also burned out with photography.  I’d spent a few years taking a whole lot of really crappy jobs because I needed the money.  Some of the ‘bikini girl’ jobs had a natural appeal for a young man running on hormonal guidance systems; but even some of them were with some downright catty and unpleasant women that I’d have told to take a flying leap if the rent weren’t due every month.  And for every job I enjoyed, there were two more that I didn’t.  Too many people knew just how badly I needed the cash, and for a while, photography stopped being fun.  I took jobs back then that I wouldn’t take today for all the tea in China.
         “That having been said, I probably ought to add that even in the period in the early '90's, whether I liked it or not, I still had a hand in the business, if only indirectly. I was spending a lot of my time stooped over an optical bench designing laser interferometry and holography equipment. And I was writing embedded software to do chromatography measurements for a medical application. And since the application in question was measuring immunoglobulin levels in tears as a method for diagnosing conjunctivitis in the eye, before I was done I'd learned a great deal about the physiology of vision.”

         So in about 1990, Eric set aside the bulk of his gear and basically didn’t take another photo for three full years.  In 1993, however, fate intervened.

         “Two things got me to hang a camera around my neck again.  First, the girl I was then dating and I decided to vacation in Jamaica.  There was no way that I wasn’t going to snap at least a few photos of the ‘yard’ while I was there.  I hadn’t had a real vacation since leaving grad school, and I wanted to have a tray full of slides so that I could relive this one as often as my sanity demanded it.
         “Second, one of my workout buddies needed photos.  She’d won a few rounds of the ‘Miss Hawaiian Tropic’ contest, and was being considered as a model for a catalog to be put out by a young company called ‘Venus Swimwear.’  She’d gone to a local photographer who’d gotten more than a little fresh with her; and after she pretty much ran out of the place screaming, she decided her next session was going to be with somebody whose history she knew a little better.  I agreed to shoot a few photos just for her.  The photos looked good, and word about me started getting around again.
         “Ironically, it’d always been the technical side of photography that most interested me; and subject matter had always been secondary.  But at this point, I was establishing a reputation as someone who photographed people – and in particular women.  So I just went with it.  I could still do all the fun darkroom stuff no matter what the subject matter.
         “I just make at least some time today to shoot landscapes – in order to press myself out of the comfortable exposure zones of IV, V, VI, and VII where it seems I live an awful lot of my professional life.”

         In 1994, Eric moved to Canton, Ohio (about an hour south of Cleveland) to work at a company developing security products for the banking industry.  His assignment was, among other things, to detect counterfeit currency by shining various colored lights on it.  Again, optics and chromaticity reared their heads in the middle of his career as an engineer.
         On the weekends, he found his way into the Cleveland ‘Flats,’ where before too long, he also found himself shooting photos for Hooters restaurant, Budweiser, and Miller Lite.

         “I headed up to the ‘Flats’ in search of a little night life, since once you’d seen the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Hoover Historical Society’s vacuum cleaner museum, you’d about exhausted what there was to do in Canton.
         “On one of my wintertime trips through the Flats, I met the local marketing man for Budweiser.  By maintaining the contact, six months later when the weather was warm, I was the official photographer for a weekly bikini contest sponsired by Bud and held at the local "Hooters" restaurant. That was, in the words of Yogi Berra, ‘déjà vu all over again.’
         “Not long after, Rusty Wallace’s race crew (complete with car) turned up in Ohio; and Miller wrote me a few checks to shoot the car, the guys from the local beer distributorship, and the ‘Girls of the Miller Lite Cold Patrol.’  Beer and cute young women were becoming staple items in my photo career.  I guess there’s worse that could happen to you. But I sort of chuckle when I read Ed Weston's old daybooks – and in particular his famous 1927 exclamation, 'Why this tide of women?!'

         When the engineering career in Canton didn’t pan out, Eric decided to return to warmer climes.

         “Basically, I was looking for someplace where the sun shone and I could indulge myself as both an engineer and a photographer.  San Diego, CA and Austin, TX ended up on the short list of places to live.  Both had plenty of places to ply my trade as an engineer.  Plus, San Diego was close enough to LA to be a viable place to take photos; and Austin had a vibrant music scene and the beginnings of a film industry.  In the end, I chose Austin, since I intended to buy a house; and what bought a palace in Austin at the time wouldn’t get you a tarpaper shack in San Diego.  Plus, I'd been hotrodding cars for years; and my primary vehicle (a heavily modified 1968 Cougar) wasn't even close to street legal in California. And in spite of the fact that it regularly passed 1990's vintage emissions tests, California law wasn't written by anybody with even a smidgen of common sense.
         So I put down roots in Austin. The housing market has changed here in the last five years, but since I bought into the market in ’96, that’s somebody else’s problem.  I have my house, a studio and darkroom in it, and plenty of music and film personalities to photograph.”

         When he got to Austin, Eric got pretty quickly established as a guy who could make you look good on film.

         “My stint shooting for Bud and Hooters led to my hanging out with one of the girls who worked in the Warren, Ohio restaurant.  She and I shared an interest in martial arts – which was a handy discipline for her, since more than once she had to subdue a patron.  Warren is an old General Motors town, and when a lot of those Chevy Cavalier parts started getting made in Mexico, a whole lot of the UAW natives got laid off and restless.  Friday and Saturday nights you could pretty much count on a fight in your bar or restaurant if you owned one.  If there were union boys at one table and scabs at another, you knew something ugly was going to happen sooner or later.
         “Anyway, before I left for Austin to interview for the engineering job that I eventually took, she jokingly told me to bring back a Hooters tank top with ‘Austin, TX’ written on it.
         “On my first trip into the Austin-Northcross Hooters store to do her bidding, I met a waitress there who was moonlighting from her job at an engineering firm.  She was also working part time as a model.  Add all that up, and you can see why we hit it off pretty quickly.  She ended up being one of my best models, and she spread the word about me around as many places as she could.  I was up and running in Austin faster than just about any place I’d ever lived before.  And by this point, I’d given up trying to shoot much of anything other than people (and again, particularly women) for money.  True, there were always opportunities to photograph high-tech products; and I still do a fair amount of that as well.  But for better or for worse that doesn’t seem to be where my reputation ended up being made.”

         Now that he was settled into a good darkroom of his own design, Eric started to synthesize his own photo chemistries.

         “One of the better bookstores in town carried a copy of Steve Anchell’s Darkroom Cookbook; and in ’96 I bought it, took it home, and immersed myself in it.  One of the formulae included in the book was that for PMK Pyro, the B&W film developer I now use almost exclusively.  Also attached was a footnote on how to obtain a copy of Gordon Hutchings’ The Book of Pyro through the Photographer’s Formulary in Condon, MT.  Gordon was the inventor of the PMK process, and he was in large part responsible for the revival of pyrogallol developers in the large-format B&W fine art world.  I immediately saw the applications of pyro to portraiture, and I put the stuff to work there.  This was also about the time that I really discovered all the merits of cold-light printing, and I modified the B&W lamphouse of my primary enlarger to accept the Aristo V54 cold light head.  Gordon’s primary light is an Aristo W45, but I wanted to experiment with something a little bluer in color to really emphasize the pyro stain.  I may yet switch back to something like a W45, however, when I put in my next large format enlarger.”

         Finally, in August of 2000, Eric had the opportunity to meet and trade tips with Gordon Hutchings himself.

         “Meeting Gordon was a real treat.  There are some huge egos in this business, yet for all he’s done, Gordon is an exceedingly modest and approachable guy.  I don’t do much work at sizes greater than 6cm x 7cm, and part of the fun of working with Gordon was getting to play with the 8” x 10” Deardorff view camera that for him is a staple of fine art landscape shooting.  Gordon is also a skilled printer, and he had a lot of suggestions for me as far as improvements I could make in my split-contrast printing technique.  It may well be some of those suggestions that drive my next enlarger choice.
         “I actually met Gordon through contacts I’d made at the Photographer’s Formulary in Montana, and before my time in Montana was up, I’d had the added benefit of meeting about a dozen or so other fairly serious artists in the field.
         “By no means least among these folks was Gordon's assistant, Christine Anderson, a professor at the University of Montana who is an accomplished photographer in her own right. Chris had also recently authored Tutti Nudi, a feminist critique of the nude throughout history. In the extremely small world department, Chris' daughter Lu was somebody I knew from living in Austin. And fortunately, Chris is a feminist with a good sense of humor and perspective, because it wasn't all that long after I returned to Austin that I ended up using Lu as a model in a car club's swimsuit pin-up calendar.
         “At least, I hope Chris has a good sense of humor about these things...”

         These days, Eric continues to do fine art portraiture in both B&W and color from out of his studio and darkroom in Austin, TX.  His current projects include fine-tuning his E6 process to produce optimal results with the Fujichrome RVP and RDP-III emulsions.  His hobbies include the restoration of old cars, marathon running, and martial arts.  And he continues to be active in the local Austin high-tech scene as a designer of electronics.