First Things

A shutterbug's legacy

MemoriesOfAFormerKid.jpg

Memories Of A Former Kid

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In 1931, when Ronald Lovelock fired up his camera, it was undoubtedly for his own enjoyment. Today, the resulting photographs provide a unique glimpse into a way of life irretrievably lost.

Born and raised on an Illinois farm, Lovelock opted for a career as a railroad engineer. But as a young man in his mid-20s, he was the proud owner of both an Avery steamer and a camera, and he was passionate about each.

Unlike many amateur photographers, Lovelock had a very clear idea of the story he wanted his photographs to tell. Rather than shoot a steam engine standing still and alone, he focused on the Avery at work, fully manned and gushing clouds of smoke. His photographs do more than document the steamer's existence: They show how the Avery was used on the farm.

In the photographs published on pages 40-43 of this issue of Farm Collector, Lovelock seems determined to capture a moment in time. Perhaps he grew up hearing tales at his father's knee, and understood how quickly things were changing. Did he realize that his prized Avery would soon go the way of dinosaurs? We'll never know what, exactly, influenced his style. But we do know that his instincts were on the mark. He worked as methodically as a professional photographer, generating a carefully composed scene showing preparations to blast trees … a casual but instructive shot of men harvesting ice … a Depression-era auction.

And while many amateur photographers of his era presented people as if readying them for a firing squad, Lovelock's subjects never rest. They're sawing ice, augering blasting powder, laying tile, husking corn, building shocks. Look at their faces: They had great affection for the man behind the camera. They wave; they ham it up, they relax.

Lovelock's photographs tell stories, to be sure, but they also advise. They tell us to capture not just the smiling face of the new graduate, but the scene on campus that day. Take a shot of the baby, but also the nursery, the first home, the town. Take pictures of people working in the farm shop, the crew at the Co-op, the line of grain trucks, the little league dugout, the back-stage frenzy on dance recital night. Those are the times of our lives, and someday, those images will help another generation understand what it meant to live today.

Leslie McManus, Editor
lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com