A life behind the lens – La Tribune

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Carrie Stambaugh story

Tom Worden was a small child when he received his first camera. It was, in his words, “Love in the first frame.”

Today, over 50 years later, he still feels the same sense of excitement and wonder every time he places his eye in the viewfinder to frame a shot. “Photography is a strange thing. It takes hold of you – it’s like a drug, ”says Worden.

Technology has changed dramatically during its long love affair with photography. His first camera was of the kind that after all the photos were taken, the whole device was mailed in for further development, and then a few weeks later the printed photographs arrived in the mail with a brand new camera. Compare that to Worden’s newer Nikons, which allow you to view images captured seconds before.

Although Worden admits he misses working with the film, he said digital photography allows more people to learn the craft and share their work with the world. “I love to see the photographs that people in our region take. They get there with so many different skill levels but one thing in common: Something they see has inspired them so much that they just need to share it with others. For me, it’s photography at the heart, the desire to share with others, ”he explained.

Originally from Charleston, West Virginia, Worden moved to the Ashland, Ky. Area about 20 years ago when the city was experiencing an arts and culture boom. There were many galleries to display his work and the now defunct Pendleton Arts Center had just opened.

Although he laments the closure of many galleries and the PAC, he hopes the city will once again become an arts center – highlighting the recent erection of the large bronze sculptures by the river and the sudden popularity of murals in the center. -city. . “It looks like it’s trying to become an artistic place again, we had it all, and it all just went away,” Worden said, “I hope we can get out of this nose dive.”

Photography provided a career that both fueled his constant desire to create while supporting him financially. And, he did it all without any expensive formal academic training. Worden is a “self-taught” photographer, although he hastens to say that he has done a lot of study on his own in order to perfect his art. “I think that to be a good photographer you have to understand art and good composition. I really think it’s important for young photographers to study the photographers of the past – the masters, ”he said. Worden also spent hours and hours working on camera settings and developing film images before moving on to digital cameras and the accompanying computer editing programs.

“It has been my chance to work in photography both as a passion and as a profession, it has been amazing to spend a lifetime looking at things,” he said, adding, “When you give your full attention to a flower, an insect or a dilapidated and abandoned building, it can be a powerful and sometimes overwhelming experience. Photography is a lot about trying to figure out how life works and getting the camera to show it. “

“I think it’s also important to work where you are. We all dream of the ‘great photographic adventure’, but chances are you’ll spend a lot more time in your own backyard. There are so many beautiful, interesting things around us all the time. You just have to be open to it. When I turn, in the back of my head, I think to myself, “If I was on a mission for National Geographic, how would I do that?” “When you aspire to produce the best work you can, it can lead to other things,” he said.

Worden is best known for his works created in the pictorialist style. It emphasizes the beauty of the subject matter and the composition, rather than documenting reality. However, Worden also occasionally worked as a freelance photojournalist and did his fair share of portraits and wedding photography.

Perhaps some of his best-known images are of a lightning bolt over the town of Ashland, captured from his home. He added: “I’m not a storm chaser, but if he comes to town, I will photograph him. Like in the circus.

The images he captured of the AK Steel Ashland Works and coking plant before they closed are among his favorites, and he sincerely hopes they will continue after he leaves. “I have images that no one else in this area has, I want the library to get my photographs,” he said, noting that most of the images were captured at night. The factories “were amazing visually and audibly, it was just amazing to stand near them,” he added.

In addition to the old factories, Ashland has many other muses that have inspired his work. “I love to promote the beauty of the Ashland region. I created a fan page for the Central Park Christmas Lights, one for the Ashland area sculpture and statues, and I’m almost done with one for Ashland Cemetery. I can see one for Ashland Harbor and the Ashland Trail System and one called Stained Ashland… It would be a collection of all the stained glass windows in Ashland, ”he said.

In recent years, Worden has broadened his talent for creating beauty beyond the lens and in the work of sculpture. A piece titled “Opinions, in Black and White and Usually Designed to Harm,” is now on display at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center. Created with the thorns of a Washington hawthorn, the piece was inspired by the most recent American electoral cycle, Worden said, noting “it is a dangerous work of art” literally because of the sharp thorns it had to be placed behind glass.

Another piece he created won first prize last Friday at the Grayson Art Gallery. It features an oval stone embedded in a piece of wood. “I love the way the light moves around her as the day progresses,” Worden explained, noting, “Even though your work only makes sense to you, it’s fine. It’s about trying to understand yourself through expression. It is only the icing on the cake if other people find something of interest in your work.

To see more of Tom’s work, visit his Facebook page. The Highlands Museum and Discovery Center and the Huntington Museum of Art also exhibit some of his sculptures.


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