Do you remember about seven or eight months back, when the Tubes of the Etherwebs were ablaze (alas, I can no longer say "atwitter," dang it) with the news that "Ansel Adams's old job" was being offered by the Park Service? And would pay $100,000 a year? Some lucky so-and-so would spend all year making Adamsian landscapes—which many of us pay to do for a week or two every year. The story went modestly viral and was reported far and wide (here's an example).
Turns out the hype was maybe a little too hyped—but just a little. The job is only remotely related to a job Ansel once had, and it will consist mostly of photographing architecture and man-made landmarks. And the salary range topped out at $99k and change, but the starting pay will probably be closer to the other end of the range, which was a little less than $64,000.
The job does sound pretty dreamy for anyone who likes to shoot a lot. And travel. It was landed when the dust cleared by Madison, Wisconsin resident Jarob J. Ortiz, 33, who grew up in Milwaukee and studied photography at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). Here's his website. Jarob will be shooting for the National Park Service in large format black-and-white.
"This is, realistically, the exact job that I would like to do for the rest of my life," he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The article, by Journal-Sentinel art and architecture critic Mary Louise Schumacher, was very pleasant to read. It's really nice to hear about a photographer getting a great job, for good pay, doing something valuable that so many people would enjoy.
Personally, I've long believed that every State and every decent-sized city should have an Official Photographer, whose job would be nothing more than documenting and archiving what things look like. Given that things change all the time. Heck, the whole program would cost less than one fighter jet, much less one aircraft carrier.
Ortiz will be based in Washington, D.C. and starts his new job this month.
(Thanks to Mike Plews)
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Featured Comments from:
kodachromeguy: "The City of Seattle did have official photographers in the 1930s and 1940s. If you are restoring a house, you could buy a black and white print of your house because thousands of structures had been photographed. Then you could compare your modern home with the older and, presumably, more original architecture. Users can go to the Washington State archives."
Tom Passin: "Around 1973, I was hiking in the Adirondacks, in New York State. As I worked up the trail in a light rain, I met a man coming the other way. He was well equipped and nicely rain-proof with his pack under cover, and he carried a tripod. He told me he had landed a year-long job photographing scenes in the Adirondacks and had been out for a few months so far. I don't know his name or the source of his funding, but I thought he had really landed a prize!"
Graham Byrnes: "Why large format B&W? I shoot 90% B&W, I recognise the artistic advantages; but for documenting the landscape? Dare I suggest that this is driven by nostalgia and the same results could be achieved using any 40-MP+ digital camera?"
Kent Thompson replies to Graham: "In archives, black-and-white film is still the trusted media for longterm storage. the standard is actually with polyester based black-and-white microfilm for records reformatting. Every State and Federal archive has some kind of microfilm program going on. With photography in archives and museums, most have gone digital but still consider film to be the archival choice.
"We've been shooting digital for about five years now, with a photo department that goes back around 50 years that was film based. We always shot 4x5 black and white and used color for 'illustration.' Color has never been used for archival work because of the dye fading issues and all that. In most archives you will find a disproportionate amount of black and white film over color. Most roll film, besides technical films and microfilm, is on an acetate base which isn't as stable as polyester. Acetate shrinks over time and causes the emulsion to buckle on the negative. Only cold storage and low relative humidity can stave this off. Polyester is much more stable even at room temperatures, so it's the preferred medium. In most archives, it's the film that is the master file, with prints used for access or dupe negatives as well.
"Now, with digital, there are all sorts of different approaches, But when it comes to HABS/HAER [Historic American Buildings Survey and the Historic American Engineering Record —Ed.]—they are still positively old school. The reason for LF is pretty simple though—perspective control. That is really the biggest thing I miss when I shoot digital now. The loss of control in the studio and working in the field. There is seldom a day that passes that I don't wish I was still using a view camera."
[In an earlier post, Kent described himself as "a museum photographer working in the design section of a history museum." —Ed.]