Local Guy Makes Good

Guy Reynolds is one of those got-here-quick-as-I-could Texans, arriving at age three. His mother ran a book store in Richardson, and he has lived in the area most of his life. He’s what we call a good guy (sorry): He delivers Meals on Wheels, he cares about his friends, he loves his family. Besides photo-editing at the Dallas Morning News, he takes his own shots, over a million by some reckonings.

Reynolds recently posted the following quotation from André Kertész:  “We became less and less inclined to talk about the photographs as we became more and more convinced that the best photographs talk for themselves, speaking in a language of their own, and that the less there is to say about a picture by way of explanation, after looking at it, the better it is as a picture.” So of course I’m not really going to talk about his photography as much as encourage to look at it. Before anything else, please go to his website guydaho.com. You’ll be glad. And the rest of what I say will make sense.

Let’s use the journalist’s questions—who, what, when, where, why, and how—to explore his work.

Guy Reynolds earns a living in photography, a rarity these days, night editing since 1996. After journalism school at UT (Austin), he worked in Winston-Salem, Baton Rouge, and Indianapolis. His reputation for the quirky extends to his being the last photographer at the DMN to use its darkroom. Reynolds denies any particular inspiration for his professional choice; when he needed to decide on a major, photojournalism did not require a language. His time in Louisiana gave him the experience to know that Hurricane Katrina was going to be a big deal, so he sent additional photographers to cover the devastation there and in Mississippi. The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in 2006 because of his acumen. He won’t brag it up and explains it better, but I can give him some credit.

He names his influences easily and adds: “But in my career as a documentary photographer I’d say Elliott Erwitt has certainly been my all-time favorite. The greatest teachers aren’t only those who’ve gone before but also those who one works with. It’s been my good fortune to work with many very talented shooters and editors at past jobs and currently. I learned from osmosis and continue to.”

In a time when digital is the standard, Reynolds’ camera of choice is a Holga, the cheap camera from Hong Kong with a plastic lens and decidedly iconic results. It uses a 120 format film which is square and five times the size of a 35 mm negative, so enlargement quality is better. Stylistic elements include ease of use (settings for either sunny or cloudy), automatic edge shading (vignetting), distortions, and light leaks.

He’s had shows in a variety of venues (galleries, restaurants, hair salons). Most recently, his work appeared at the Tammy Cromer Gallery with the title “Not Dead Yet! (and neither is film).” This odd description refers both to his own battle with Stage 4 esophageal and liver cancer and the medium of film. The three collections in the Tammy Cromer show were shot in Texas, two along roadsides and one in Dallas. The titles reflect those origins: “White Trash,” “Speechless,” and “Almost Texas.” The first two were shot in 2018, with “Almost Texas” begun in 2003. The sharing is important: “I’ve had a show in a hair salon,” he says with a smile. “I’ve had a show at two restaurants. So I’m not proud, I’ll show photos anywhere. That’s what it’s about being a photographer. You don’t take photos just to look at [them] yourself. You know, you want to share them.”

“Almost Texas” contains an array of hand-painted shapes that catch a vision of our great state’s shape, but not quite. Some are sad, others happy, some sloppy, others meticulous, but all were found at car inspection facilities with limited advertising budgets. Once in East Dallas, Reynolds noticed a nervous owner watching him take photos. A brief but not particularly efficacious conversation followed. When Reynolds returned, he noticed that the Texas sign had been redone in careful, perfect lines.

“Why” is the most interesting question. Reynolds addresses this issue with this wonderful dichotomy: “I could cook up some kind of artist’s statement about using the delicate interplay between light and shadow as a leitmotiv to investigate the weight of the quotidian… but it pretty much boils down to this: I take pictures of things that interest me to see what they look like as photographs.”

Raymond Carver (not the short story master but the Angelo State University professor) used this definition: “Art is an activity or productivity wherein an artist—using critical means—shares with percipients what it means to be human.” How can a bag on a fence, an empty sign in the middle of nowhere, a ragged approximation of Texas reflect humanity? We all know, of course, even though we may never take the time to write the words that would explain. Beauty—and not just the Texas kind—is also to be had on Guy Reynold’s Flickr page. Someone has mentioned truth in connection with beauty. Perhaps nothing more needs to be said. You’ll be glad you looked.


Top 5 Reasons Why I Hate Star Trek: Discovery

More importantly, of course, is why in the world should you care? After all, you may or not be a Trekkie, and you can form your own opinions of the series if you’re willing to pay (cringe) to watch it. It’s the big picture, though, the thoughts behind the reasons that merit your attention. An example from the show—apparently, someone neglected to show ranks appropriately on the casts’ uniforms. The problem was discovered (sorry) and repaired with CGI. That’s a little thing, not the big picture. Sure, some people would care, but it’s not what I hope to do here.

5. Prequels are by definition sketchy. Two words: Star Wars. I liked Rogue One, and strictly speaking, it is a prequel, but our heroes don’t get off that planet alive. The new Star Trek movies with Chris Pine are great, but they succeed as movies. No one is looking to make them into a series. Kingdom- or empire-building requires something much different than a 15-episode story arc.

4. The characters on Discovery ask too much of my suspension of disbelief while giving too little. We had a dramatic opening to the series in which the lead, Michael Burnham, disobeys her commander and fires on Klingons, starting in essence a major war. She is sentenced to life in prison, but modern writing being what it is, she gets out within six months and continues to serve under a cloud. Instead of offering a monumentally important compendium here, I’ll concentrate instead on two names: Michael Burnham and Tilly. Why must this woman have a man’s name? Apparently, it’s the signature move of Bryan Fuller, the producer. I don’t like it. Yes, I remember Michael Learned who played the mother in The Waltons, and I’m sure it’s a perfectly valid first name, as valid as Georgette or Georgine, perhaps. I think it goes against the grain of female empowerment, which is probably not the right phrase. (Burnham goes into a different category: icky images.) Contrast this with the character Tilly, which rhymes with both “frilly” and “silly.” Although she is smart, she talks too much, especially about her plans and dreams, with not much substance. She cries a lot. Not officer material, but the other characters always try to improve her self-image. Boring.

3. The writing is bad. Too much talking about too much feeling, to put it in a nutshell. The dialogue is often stilted or wooden or whatever other negative adjective is needed. Sometimes it’s unintentionally funny. One of the characters, Ash, is really a Klingon (Voq) who was surgically altered to look human. Michael has a fling with him before that comes out, and he doesn’t know about his real origin anyway for quite a while. When he reunites with his people, he and his real love, L’Rell (not Lor-el or P’rell, notice) are speaking in English when he asks “Why aren’t we speaking Klingon?” It’s a good question, since the Klingons are completely inconsistent in spite of the use of translated blurbs. Regardless, the plots are too complicated to allow for better writing. Ash finds a baby that L’Rell had but pretends to sacrifice along with him to save the alliance. It’s just too much. Both are safe at the end of episode 4, with the baby going to a monastery. Which of course they have in that day and age. Luckily.

2. The science is bad. No, I’m not a physicist. Not that I didn’t aspire to be one decades ago. It still interests me. And when challenged once about not understanding even a basic combustion engine, I was able to reply that, in fact, I do have some understanding of it. Since there’s not really an engine that uses dilithium crystals, the leap to engines that use mycelium (or fungus) is not that great. But it is weird. Here’s one of those wondrous coincidences that the writers came upon: Guess who is the best known expert on mycelium (or mushrooms)? Paul Stamets. In Discovery, that’s the name of the lieutenant commander who injects himself with the spores that allow the craft to jump anywhere in the universe instantly. Our earthly mycologist Stamets has a TED talk “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.” And other worlds too, one assumes.

  1. Manipulation. Say what you will about the original series, Roddenberry didn’t care much what I thought. He really was out to explore new worlds. (For an interesting diversion, look into Blue Latitudes, the story of James Cook who explored and mapped much of the world. He said this: “I intend to go farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it is possible for a man to go.” Familiar?) There were political episodes, historical allusions, comedic ones, uncomfortable scenes, and power struggles. There were codes of behavior that exceeded family values, which turn saccharine in Discovery. There was empathy and suffering, loss and triumph. What was not there? Pandering. I don’t need to be comforted in my memories. Of course, since 1969, there have been an additional 600+ episodes associated in some ways with the series. Other than The Next Generation, I wasn’t particularly a fan of most of them so won’t generalize wildly about their content. This time, I’m paying. I think I deserve more than I’m getting. Respect the heritage, people. Don’t just be clever.

Haunted Hotel, Ghosts in Virginia

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with no memory of how you ended up on a certain topic? Since I am sure there are those among us who can’t remember what we had for breakfast, I’ll take that as a yes. So it was last week when I heard the story of the haunted Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. A quick review on the internet showed that the stories were true in the sense that someone had told them, which will count for now. This article has lots of good pictures, but the writer doesn’t know the difference between “it’s” and “its,” which is really scary to me. Here the writer uses commas in odd, unreasonable places and random capitalization. Good information, historical references, but come on, people. Learn the rules. Several of the television shows that investigate such things with thousands of dollars of tech came to the hotel and pronounced it haunted, Ghost Adventures, for example. I don’t watch such programs because I find them tedious and the red eyes of the cast scare me.

As interesting as all this is, last week’s news is the natural segue. Virginia’s top three officials—governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general—all faced down ghosts from their pasts. First, Gov. Northam appeared to support infanticide of a child born after an abortion. That became less controversial after someone found pictures in his medical school yearbook of him (or not) in either blackface or a KKK hood. He apologized before deciding he was neither figure; later he admitted putting on “a little shoe polish on my cheeks” because he impersonated Michael Jackson for a dance contest. An aide lately has explained why this is offensive. When asked if he can still moonwalk, Gov. Northam appears to consider a demonstration at 3:15 in this video until his wife says “inappropriate circumstances” and he stops. The look on her face for the entire segment is priceless as well. Today—so many hours after the original haunting—he uses the term “indentured servants” instead of what he means: slaves. The interviewer says “Also known as slavery,” apparently in an attempt to prompt him, but that’s inaccurate too. The two terms are not interchangeable, and if there is a higher level of semantic juggling going on here, the historicity is beyond me. Opinions may vary.

Virginia’s attorney general admitted wearing blackface to impersonate a rapper in 1980. AG Herring was 19 at the time; he was not responding to disclosure but rather fomenting a pre-emptive strike, made necessary perhaps because he had called for the governor’s resignation. He must have had one of those “uh-oh” moments.

If the allegations regarding these officials seem ignorant or sophomoric or buffoonish, those against the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, loom large and sinister. Two women have described sexual assaults and came forward when it seemed he might become governor. Today four top staffers resigned, and his law firm put him on leave. Grim portents indeed.

The Baker Hotel has a long history of dozens of ghosts, apparitions, orbs, ecto sprays, complete with noises and music, footsteps and fear. Exorcisms may free places and people from possession. What will work for these politicians’ pasts? Apologies seem ineffectual. Time passes and other bridges must be crossed (or walls observed, in El Paso).

Luckily, thankfully, these matters are for the people of Virginia to decide. The state’s motto—Sic semper tyrannis—“Thus always to tyrants” has a long and varied history. Perhaps it will find new meaning this week.


Last week was rough for a lot of people—Chicagoans, Texas Catholics, pro-life supporters, to name a few. The weather passed (though not necessarily the climate which apparently is going to lead to the end of the world in 12 years); many of the priests who were on the Dallas list have died (cold comfort for some, eternal justice for others); the Virginia bill extending abortion rights through birth did not pass (the New York bill did, putting the country among countries like China and North Korea which do allow infanticide, more or less). What comfort else can be given?

In times like these—and with the particularly grim aspects of last week—the times are not likely to get better permanently. I am not a huge fan of musicals, but I’ll bet you know the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. We have Julie Andrews comforting the six Von Trapp children from the comfort of her gold-colored comforter during a thunderstorm. Short but charming. Perhaps you have your own list.

My offering is obscure, a television episode of Alien Nation called “Generation to Generation.” The series had just one season in 1989-90. Based on a movie that was dark and gritty and which I never actually saw, the television series did address bigotry and prejudice well without being preachy. The Tenctonese had been slaves and crashed on Earth when the ship carrying them malfunctioned. They were smarter than humans, usually, and much stronger. I’d think you might like it if you like that sort of thing.

Anyway, the title of the episode makes sense only at the end. An elderly uncle of the Tenctonese police detective dies, and his family grieves at his seemingly-meaningless loss. A box which led to the death held great power and caused other deaths directly when opened incorrectly. It fried people to a crisp actually. At last the box is taken to the elders, one of whom knows how to honor the heritage of the container. When she opens it, the box projects scenes from Tencton. Words fail to describe the beauty, but you can watch the scene here.

The purpose of the box is to remind the aliens of their home. And their children of a place they have never seen. The place it will illuminate they will call a temple. Here are some pictures of temples from my faith tradition; there are others, of course. When I see the Alien Nation episode, I get chills. Remembering something not only beautiful but also transcendent can give strength through trials. See paragraph one. Reflect on your own favorite things. It will help.