Unless you’re a photographer or interested in photography you might not know Albert Watson. But if you’ve been alive anytime between now and the early 70s you’ve seen his work.
A Scottish photographer known for his fashion, celebrity and art photography, Watson held court Friday night in an old church (with a wonderful balcony) on Queen Street East to a full house of admirers, students and broken-hearted photographers.
Maybe I should have said broken-spirited photographers because after watching iconic image after image all shot by Watson over his life-time career I compared my best images and came short…way short. In fact, compared to Watson I’m a hack at best.
But there was some light in the darkness. Watson is a professional shooter like myself. Perhaps without exception, Watson hasn’t shot an image he wasn’t being paid for either directly or indirectly. What I mean by that is to look back at my work. As a newspaper photographer I was the official recorder of the history of the places I lived. But did I wander around with camera in hand capturing the culture, the community or the people? No. I shot what was assigned to me. My work was above competent and occasionally gazed towards art but none of it came from my own artist interests.
It appears that Watson’s career followed a similar path. From what I gathered at his talk, his best “art” images were at least part of something he was being paid for..such as the the cover of The Rolling Stone or Vogue or dozens of other magazines.
While Watson came from Scotland to Los Angeles and then within a couple of years to New York City where his work found buyers I shot for a small city daily newspaper…and loved (almost) every minute of it.