My Most Successful Photograph

In the world’s terms, this is my most successful photograph. It has been published, reprinted, and sold more prints than any other photo I have done. Back in the day, it was published in several literary magazines; a T-shirt was done of it, and people continue to buy prints of it online. It’s my guitar. It’s a Garcia Grand Concert 1A classical guitar. My father bought it for me when I was in college so I could get a job teaching guitar lessons to pay my way through school. He used a single twenty dollar gold piece to buy it. The instrument accomplished its goal admirably, and I received my B.A. debt free. 

It fascinates me that of all of the photos I have done, of people, places and things, that this one continues to experience the the success that it does. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But it does, and that pleases me, because if I had to pick an image that conveyed what that part of my life was like, I couldn’t do any better than this one.


Classical Guitar 1984

I wish I had a nickel for every hour I have spent with this guitar. It is still just as wonderful as it ever was, or more so. Guitars get better with time up to a point. Their tone improves with the vibrations that are played through them. There is science to back that up. I’ve read about it but I can’t explain it. It’s just like great old violins. The wood cures and dries, and some parts of it are shaken out by the vibration of the tones. As I understand it, the process continues for about forty years with guitars. Beyond that, the tone doesn’t change very much. This guitar was built in 1972, so it has reached that point of tonal clarity and brilliance so cherished by acoustic guitar players. Its voice is magical. It can still play me into dreams.

The photograph was shot on a Nikon FM with a 50mm lens using Kodak Plus-X Pan film. I developed and printed it in the bathroom. The location was Lexington, Kentucky.

Times change and people change, but good tools don’t change. I don’t play guitar as much as I once did. My interests and priorities have changed, but the guitar is still as wonderful and capable as it ever was. Maybe I’ll find a gifted, young classical player and give it to him or her so its voice will be heard as it should be. Until then, it will keep me company and remind me of a time when music dominated my life.


…and, yes, if you would like to have a print, RedBubble will make you a nice one. Click here.


7 Responses to My Most Successful Photograph

  • Dwayne says:

    When a photographer takes a photo he often is so focused on the exposure to realize what he is actually capturing. Like many have said before, we don’t see what is captured on the film, just the fraction of a second before and after the photo. At the time it was probably just another creative photograph you were trying to capture, but the outcome represents so much more. The strings of the guitar are lined up like the roads we have to travel, they are long and we can’t see the end. The body is split between the darkness and the light. The neck extends toward the stairs that we all too often have to climb to get to where we are going and the open area outside reminds me that there is something out there, but we have to travel the roads and climb the stairs to get there.

    Many people have traveled that road with their guitar strapped to their back, many have succeeded and many have failed. But when all is said and done, nothing can ever take away the memories or the meaning of what that guitar has to so many people. Through your eyes, I can see how much you love your guitar!

  • Syd says:

    Thanks, Dwayne.

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  • What you’ve captured is a fantastic metaphor of your life. Traveling down new roads from familiar ground or strings, to places unknown and unpredictable. Who would have thought that the road laid out by the neck of your guitar would take you where you are today. What an inspiring story my friend.

    By the way, we have a lot in common. I too had an FM camera when I was attending photography school in NYC back in the 80’s. What a great camera it was and actually, I still have it and the 50mm lens. Too funny. And, I too played classical guitar on my acoustic which is sleeping in its case in my bedroom…what melodic memories it holds for me!

  • Syd says:

    Thanks, Jeff. I sold my FM and lenses in a moment of madness, and I have regretted it ever since. It’s interesting how lives often run in parallel spiritual paths, but in our case, it doesn’t surprise me.

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