Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sam Abell, Artist.

Photo by Steve Vega

One of the first photographs I remember of Sam Abell's was a window view of the Kremlin. A breezy lace curtain and several yellow pears resting on the windowsill complete the image. Like much of his work, it is deceptively complex. Has many layers.

Another, perhaps one of his most appreciated and celebrated photographs, records a group of cowboys branding and castrating cattle. In the foreground a man in a felt Stetson with a knife in his mouth and blood stained fingers. Middle ground, two cowpokes wrestle a small steer to the ground. And further into the photograph, perfectly framed by these two men, is another ranch hand on horse back. The finishing touch is on the right hand side of the photo. A small, red bucket carried by an anonymous hand adding a splash of color in an otherwise monochrome scene. Everything fits. No extraneous elements.

Catching this deeply layered, complex image while the chaos of the event was unfolding certainly benefits from a little luck... but as the saying goes, "Chance favors the prepared mind." Sam Abell's mind was prepared. He worked the scene over. He didn't stop when he thought he had enough. He moved a little this way, a little that way. He kept looking for the image. And he found it... and it found him.

My approach to photography changed a great deal after discovering the work of this master. His influence is immeasurable. He doesn't know it, but I am deeply indebted to him.

The man is a true artist.

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