COLUMN / PERSPECTIVE: Photographer’s journey to Italy 50 years ago leads to new book | Local News

Harlan Hambright has a new book of old pictures.

He published “Rome 1971; La Gente di Roma, ” just this year as an 83/4 inch square book with an image on each of about 180 pages. (Columnist’s note: I tried counting the pages more than once, but flipping through got lost in the pictures, lost count, and eventually gave up.)

How he got to Rome in 1971 is in itself a story. A self-proclaimed naïve punk from eastern Tennessee, if there were hillbillies in the suburbs of Knoxville, Hambright was between the second and third year of the five-year Bachelor of Architecture program at the University of Tennessee. Or as some say in the South, the Big Arnge.

Astra Zarina, a renowned University of Washington professor, took Hambright and five other students to Rome to study abroad in perhaps the best place in the world for architecture. Zarina wanted her students to undertake projects and draw the buildings of Rome, some of which date back to when the city was the seat of an empire.

Instead of the # 2 pencils, Hambright carried two Nikon F cameras, one with a 20mm lens and the other with a 105mm, a short telephoto lens that was standard for portrait photography. He loaded each F with Kodak Tri-X film, the black-and-white staple for photojournalists.

As he explains, “I was 20 years old. What did I know about the history of architecture? I racked my brains, but I was taking pictures all the time.

Most press photographers have processed their film in Kodak D-76. Hambright used other chemicals and included the formula in the book.

He developed it in Agfa Rodinol diluted 1: 100 and added 100 grams of sodium sulfite per liter. He treated it for 15 minutes at 72 degrees.

(Note from another boring columnist: in the late 70s I was using Tri-X on the sideline, behind the end zone, under the basket at home and over the dugout canoe. another great Arnge covering Clemson football, basketball and baseball and during house fires, car crashes, presidential visits, etc.

My recollection is that D-76 gave you more contrast and that with Rodinol, which I rarely used, the grays seemed to have luminescence.)

He turned 140, 36 exposure rollers. That’s over 5,000 25mm by 36mm inverted images to examine and find the ones worth printing. Before the book, Hambright had never printed more than 10-20 “hero images” from this whole movie. A hero image shows a smiling, mustached young man on a scooter shot halfway in the seat with his right arm around a dark haired woman seen only from the back. He printed that one but not those of them kissing.

It printed another of a man in an obviously Italian suit looking over his left shoulder at a woman in a short dress who had walked past him on a sidewalk.

Hambright had studied the work of a pioneering French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“He’s famous for the watershed moment,” Hambright said, and that’s what he was looking for when he met the young woman on a sidewalk.

“I previewed that… I said, ‘I bet if I follow her, I’ll have a good image.’ Ten seconds later I got this, ” he said.

Of the book, he said, “There are pictures here that I have never seen. He had seen them all in vivid color, not black and white stills.

He loves his photos of children playing soccer, playing, smiling at his camera and two toddlers relieving themselves on a sidewalk as a woman leans against the stone corner of a building.

As an old man and woman sit on a slatted park bench, the dappled sunlight shines on her glasses as she falls over half of his face exaggerating her prominent left ear. An old woman’s white hair, shawl and face stand out against a dark background, and Pope Paul VI stands on a balcony.

He has nuns in sunglasses laughing, a man drinking coffee, a man dozing with his head on a table in a restaurant. There are people who are bored, people who laugh, a woman who sings and plays the accordion and a heavy man with his belt a few inches from the armpits.

He eventually graduated, even though it took seven years.

“When I graduated in 1976 in the middle of the recession, there were no jobs,” he said.

He decided to try architectural photography until he could get that first job in a drawing room. He writes that he was “semi-established as a photographer for the UT Daily Beacon at $ 2 per published image and the theater department.”

Additionally, Zarina hired Hambright to film her wedding to American architect Tony Heywood.

In the end, he fully established himself as a photographer, and that takes him to a lot of places that architecture probably wouldn’t have.

He photographed the US Embassy in Moscow for the State Department, shot missile sites in Italy for the Defense Department, and worked in Santiago, Chile. One of its best clients, 2WR in Columbus, designs fire stations, community center schools and other structures in rural areas.

He published another book, “Great Houses of Historic Brunswick”, at the same time as “Roma 1971”. Suzanne Hurley wrote the copy to accompany her striking photos.

While photographing well-designed buildings elsewhere, he finds it frustrating that “at Glynn we have no appreciation for design.

“A lot of towns would not have demolished the Oglethorpe Hotel and the Dart House,” he said.

To be fair, it wasn’t the city that destroyed the Dart House. The Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce did this, finding no one to take the beautiful old house.

In the front of the book, Nancy Josephson, president of the Civita Institute, Seattle, said that 50 years ago Zarina introduced Harbright and her other students to her Italian peers in the architectural and academic communities, to visiting professors. and his friends. Zarina encouraged her students to “observe and record what is real and evocative of what their wide eyes have seen. While [Zarina] preferred the hand holding a pencil to paper, Harlan preferred his camera.

He preferred to set a shutter speed and f-stop, then twist a focus ring before pressing his finger on the shutter button and letting the light react with the silver halide on his film.

Thirty years ago, Hambright used his computer to put the Georgia Dome on a photo of downtown Atlanta. He did this before the concrete on the first leg of the stadium was dry.

“It was in 1991. This building was demolished. The Colosseum in Rome is still standing, ” he said.

The Georgia Dome has been replaced by the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It is assumed that the Germans design cars better than the Italians. Otherwise it would be Fiat Field.

Hambright returns to Italy in November for a special visit to Civita di Bagnoregio, a medieval town about 75 km north of Rome, which is now a World Heritage Site. There, he will realize another architectural project without pencil.

“My plan is to do a 3D tour of as much of the hill town as I can access,” he said.

He seems to have left behind his naive two-dimensional ways.

About Juana Jackson

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