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.
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.