For Tullahoma native and local photographer Tony Patterson, photography is more than just taking a picture.
It’s therapeutic, a labor of love and meticulous work in order to capture the best shot.
Patterson’s work will highlight the upcoming exhibit at the Tullahoma Art Center beginning March 4.
Patterson will display his project entitled, “The Rural Prospective Project.” It is a showcase of areas in and around Middle Tennessee that caught the eye of Patterson during his daily travels.
“It was just mostly areas that I encounter within the five-county area such as Franklin, Coffee and Moore counties,” Patterson said.
Most of the photographs were shot on film, which Patterson said requires work, skill and patience.
“If something caught my eye or came into my head, I would kind of chase that until I was able to capture it,” he said. “A lot of the shots were done on film, so it was about being choosy with all the stuff I got out to shoot with. While I always carry my equipment with me, the conditions had to be just right for me to tackle bringing it all out. If not, you risk a technical glitch that will be all your fault.”
A love of the traditional
While a tedious process, Patterson said using film is a labor of love.
“When I began in photography, I started on film and large cameras, so I was used to that world,” he said. “When digital came along, I resisted it and finally gave in. Going down that road, I found that it was absolutely unfulfilling because with digital you can snap it, come back and throw it in Photoshop and in just a few minutes have a photo that people think is great. But really you did absolutely nothing. And with digital photography now, everyone is a photographer. So now you really see a discrepancy in the work. For me, it’s all about the process. It’s an extension of oneself and you’re investing yourself in it.”
Patterson said one of the best examples was recently helping fellow Tullahoma resident Candy Couch uncover a forgotten treasure from her late father, Bob Couch.
Bob Couch was a local historian, photographer and owner of the Tullahoma’s oldest business, Couch’s.
“One of the best stories that expresses what I feel is about Tullahoma native Bob Couch,” he said. “Everyone knew Bob. I was talking to
Candy one day about his view camera. She pulled it out and I happened to look at the film holder and noticed that two shots were left in the camera, showing black side out, which means exposed. It meant whatever those two sheets are were probably the last two pictures her dad took with the camera. We processed it. While it was half damaged, there was a half frame that turned out to be a landscape. You then realize that you’re touching the film that Bob did and completing the process for him. With digital, you would never have moments like that. It just doesn’t happen.”
About the exhibit
Patterson has recently wrapped up an exhibition at the Nashville International Airport.
The images on display are those he has captured over the span of a few years.
“That (the airport) was where I originally got my idea for the project,” Patterson said. “They had submission for entries and the thought was to try and catch their eye. I wanted to show travelers through the airport a part of Tennessee they may not otherwise see.”
Now bringing his show to Tullahoma, Patterson said he hopes that patrons will enjoy recognizing some of the local scenes, along with craft behind the pictures.
“It will be a little bit of everything,” he said about the show. “They will get to see different techniques and approaches. I hope they have an appreciation for the composition and the slowing down. There are 15 images on display in Nashville and for the show here, I’ll be doubling that. There will also be some portrait work on some of the more well-known individuals in the community that will be shot on a 4×5 speed graphic and an old camera with a lens that’s off a bomber from World War II. It’s an unusual combo that gives a unique look.”
If You Go
A meet-the-artist reception will be held from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, March 4. Entry is free for members and $5 for nonmembers. The exhibit will run through March.
For more information, visit online tullahomaart.org.
Kali Bradford may be reached by email at email@example.com.