Erie Faces Erie: April 31, 1016
Art Becker: photographer
"I get to do what I love: to fly around the country and shoot photographs of things."
Ed Bernik: I am so excited for you and for your career to flourish again. How did your recent move to Florida affect your photography?
Art Becker: It opened up an entirely new world to me and allowed me to unleash all my creativity. It allowed me to be exactly who I am as a photographer.
EB: In your Facebook posts, I've noticed this new intensity in your work. Is it inspired by the move, the quality of the light in Florida?
AB: Both of those, but also a change I would never have planned. The way [the move] happened freed me up and allowed me to explore a bunch of new things, photographically speaking.
There was a whole group of images I'd wanted to play with, but I never would have had the opportunity or time because I was working day to day photographing plus running my business.
EB: I've noticed how you're posting new images almost daily. It seems you wake up in the morning and start shooting, like you can't put the camera down.
AB: Yes, definitely. But last night, my wife Kathy and I went to 8 Great Tuesdays, and I went without a camera bag. Many of my old friends came up to us and said, "Art, I don't think I've ever seen you without a camera!" I told them, "No not tonight, we're here to enjoy our vacation in Erie."
EB: So this is a vacation?
AB: Yes, we're in town for one week to visit family, my son and his wife and our beautiful new granddaughter, and to go to and photograph the Blues & Jazz Festival, hang with our friends, and chill.
EB: You've been a part of the festival since its inception?
AB: I was speaking with John Vanco, and yes – I've been photographing it from the beginning, 24 years. It's one of those gigs you just can't not do. Like the Allegheny Forest stuff that you do, it's a part of who you are.
EB: Have you thought about taking those 24 years of images and doing a commemorative book?
AB: Yes, I'd like to do it for the 25th anniversary next year. I have all those images cataloged and ready to go.
EB: That would make a great fundraiser for the festival.
AB: That's a great idea. I did help raise funds this year. To date, I've raised about $2,300 through print sales on my website. I was shocked that so many people bought prints to help out.
EB: It's a good thing. People help a good cause and get some great art in return.
AB: I'll always be indebted to the Erie Art Museum. They let me teach there, and it helped me learn how to become a better instructor. They'll always be a part of me.
EB: Do you miss teaching photography?
AB: I miss teaching more then I would have imagined. I did have an offer to teach at a university in Florida but it was a full-time gig and I would have had to take a pay cut from my architectural gig. Maybe some day I'll be able to get back to it.
EB: What do you miss about Erie?
AB: Going to events we'd become accustomed to and hanging with close friends.
EB: In 25 years you've made a lot of friends. So now you and Kathy have a second grandchild in your life.
AB: Yes, a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Alec, and a two-month-old granddaughter. It's a lot of fun. We're called Papa and YaYa. The "PopArt" moniker is going to work for me really well. Somebody posted it as a joke on Facebook and I said, "Yeah, I could work with that."
EB: How has that affected your demeanor?
AB: I'm definitely much calmer. More relaxed. I don't post a lot of photos of them, but I do post some cute ones – even though I don't like cute – but they're cute. Your grandkids change your perspective on children as a whole. We have two grown children but this is different. They come to your house, they hang, and they go home … which is kind of cool.
I was teaching my grandson how to burp this morning. You have to have these kinds of skills when you go to grade school. It's an important skill and someone has to teach him.
EB: You and I have gone through maybe the last big budget heyday of commercial photography. What advice would give a young person who wants to enter that profession today?
AB: Get out!!
EB: Get out? [laughs]
AB: No, I mean get out and photograph as many things as you have the opportunity to photograph, as many different subjects as you can. And learn the craft, the art of photography. Learn how to see light.
The second most important thing is to understand that this is a business. Learn how to market your skills. Without one, you will never have the other. And have fun at it. It's going to be the roller coaster ride that is owning your own business and being self-employed. If you can ride out the storms, you'll be able to do something you love. How many people do we know that get to do that? It's been a good ride and I'm still riding. I never dread Mondays. It's like, "Hey, I get to do what I love: to fly around the country and shoot photographs of things."
EB: Do you think the imagery itself has changed during your career?
AB: There are more images, but how many are really good? I think cream rises to the top and good composition, good light, and seeing it is still there. You can take some pretty amazing photos with your cell phone. It's not going to replace composition and seeing light. Somebody said online, "Who needs a professional photographer anymore?" Well, everyone does. We do something other people can't. We simply see things differently.
Art Becker: artbeckerphoto.com
Ed Bernik: bernikphotography.com