I don’t often feel the desire to meet celebrities. I appreciate good work in all forms of art: visual art, music, acting, etc., but I’ve found sometimes the person I meet is not the person I expected. Have you ever held someone in high regard or had a role model you looked up to just to be let down or disappointed once you’ve met them? I’ve met many artists through lectures, gallery openings, shows and such. When I was just out of school, my experiences in meeting artists was that their character was much different from the perception I had of them through their work. By discovering the people behind artwork the work itself begins to change. The art started to take on a different meaning and attitude after obtaining new knowledge of the artist behind the scenes. Maybe it’s a youthful idea but I always hope artists practice what they preach; that they represent the work they are making.
To be honest I know I am scrupulous in many ways and sometimes set high standards. That being said, I have met many artists who have embodied not only the spirit of their work, but have surpassed many expectations. One such artist I had the great pleasure of meeting in early 2011. My older sister and I went to Omaha to see a symphony that was accompanied by photographs of Thomas D Mangelsen and then we attend an opening at his gallery. My sister could even tell you that I don’t normally get outwardly excited or nervous when meeting people, most times I become more reserved. In this case I was both ecstatic and nervous to meet Mangelsen. My perception of him was a fiercely passionate photographer whose main focus in his work is to photograph nature and wildlife in order to promote preservation of them.
Side note: My first major influence in photography was Ansel Adams’ black & white work, as, I’m sure, many photographers would agree. He represented an incredible talent and was an outstanding support to the National Parks through his work. Tom Mangelsen was the second photographer to influence my work, especially when I began to photograph in color and digital. I was introduced to his work through my grandparents. They loved traveling and had visited his gallery in Jackson a number of times before they took me with them in ‘08. By that point I had developed a love for history and with it, the admiration for those who take great care and have a passion for preservation and conservation.
So, to my sister’s surprise, I waited in the gallery to meet Tom Mangelsen like a child who was about to meet a sports hero, nervous excitement. I’m happy to tell you that he is the spirit of his work. He is a conservationist to the core, has an amazing eye for detail, cares about the work and encourages others to help in those causes. So, you see, people can surprise you in the good ways you hope for. Meeting an artist like that is refreshing. I am truly grateful to have a role model such as Tom. Not only is he kind and humble, but he knows firsthand the work and time necessary to achieve your goals in the arts. He encourages big dreams, creative minds and processes that are different from his own. He doesn’t see other photographers as a threat or beneath him, but as other contributors to the preservation of this beautiful world. I’ve learned a lot over the years from Tom, the biggest lesson being patience and persistence. Sometimes you have to wait for the chance for a great shot, but if you don’t work at it every day, if you give up, you’ll never succeed in that big dream of your’s and never get the great photos.
I will always look back fondly at this memory and be grateful for the lesson that not only does your work affect others but the person you are will too.
2013 seminar - Art Wolfe, Me, Fans Lanting & Tom Mangelsen