SHANNON REED PORTRAIT

Hal Gould | February 29 1920 - June 25 2015

Shannon Reed

 Hal a few days after his 95th birthday - getting ready to go to his celebration and art exhibit at the Dona Laurita Gallery in Lousiville

I thought this might be our last interview - it seemed fitting to end here at this milestone - but we came back the following week for what would, in fact, be my last interview with Hal.  

 Dominic photographing Hal with his old Hassy

Ha - don't let the stern expression fool you!  I was always so grateful to Hal and how generous he was when it came to my photographing him.  He had one or two particular poses he was so used to falling into when others would photograph him; I didn't want him to pose (if you know him, you know the pose), so I learned to be sneaky and capture him when he wasn't ready for me.  After awhile, he figured out what I was doing and began to just relax and let me take his picture without worrying about posing.  I always found him to be a magnificent subject - easily one of my favorites.

Hal with another wonderful Denver photographer, John Schoenwalter

The images above were all taken the same day, but this would be the last photograph I took of my friend.  I love that he has champagne in his hand and is surrounded by so many people who love him - and that he's in a gallery featuring his work.  Loretta Young-Gautier on the left and his wonderful daughter, Juliette, on the right. 

I first met Hal in 1983 when I was 15. My dad was one of the founding owners of the Native American Trading Company which happened to open next door to Hal's Camera Obscura Gallery. Hal opened the Camera Obscura in 1980 behind the Denver Art Museum at 13th and Bannock after severing ties with the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) - an organization he founded in 1963. Hal was a master photographer and print maker, gallerist, curator, and tireless champion of promoting photography as fine art. He was also my dear friend and mentor.

I was already captivated by photography back then and taking classes in high school when I first entered Hal's world, so I spent most of my free time over at Camera Obscura pawing through the bins of photographs and lusting over the images that hung throughout the gallery. I'm not talking about obscure images, either - Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Willy Roni, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams - you name a well-known photographer and their images were probably somewhere in the gallery.

Hal and I reconnected more formally on January 1, 2012 when I approached him about doing a documentary film on his contributions to fine art photography. At that time, Camera Obscura had been closed for about six months and Hal was recovering from a fall that had left him with a broken hip. My initial intention was to focus on his work as a photographer and the way in which he championed the marketability of photography, however, it became abundantly clear that I would be remiss if I didn't document the whole of Hal's life because he lived the hell out of it - and on his own terms.

Over the last three and a half years, we'd grown quite close. We took field trips around Colorado making pictures with his trusty Technika, took a road trip to New Mexico to visit the ranch he grew up on, spent time in the darkroom making prints together, visited art openings, shared meals, went on many (many!) walks, grocery shopped, chatted over countless cups of tea - and then there were the dozens of hours of interviews we documented on a more official level. The honesty and candor in which he recounted his rich and storied life (both in and out of photography), and the experiences we shared together have moved me in deep and profound ways: These are certainly among my most cherished memories and I'll always be grateful to Hal for giving me as much of himself as he did.

Hal lived fearlessly and passionately; I am so blessed and grateful to have known him. There's a palpable void in this world since his passing and it's going to take time to grieve the loss of my dear friend, but there's also immense joy in knowing that he's left such a wonderful legacy and that there are so many who will keep that legacy alive for generations to come.

Dominic and I will continue working on the documentary, Hal Gould: The Man in the Darkroom, which, so far, has been purely a labor of love. I have so much material to sift through and am, quite frankly, feeling a tremendous weight to do justice to Hal and his story. It will all happen when it's meant to; after all, it took 95 years to live that life - it's going to take time to tell the story properly. Until then...

Here's to the memory of my friend and, as always, to the magic of photography. ")