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Worth more than a thousand words

At Linden Ponds’ photography club, peers are the best teachers

Created date

May 5th, 2017
An architectural detail from Frank Gehry’s addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

An architectural detail from Frank Gehry’s addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

Ray Wolfe has always been drawn to photography. He started taking pictures when he was just 12 years old and, interestingly, he says his curiosity about how photography works actually inspired him to become a physicist.

“You used to have film you would develop, and there would be places where light turned part of a photo black to create the image,” Ray explains. “I wondered, ‘Where does that blackening come from?’ Strangely enough, I learned that it depends on the motion of electrons—and that is what determined my whole career as a physicist.”

Ray went on to work for many years at Bell Labs in New Jersey. His work focused on the physics of electronic materials and devices, and photography was an important tool in his work. Now retired, Ray and his wife Ursula live at Linden Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass. 

Shortly after moving to Linden Ponds about nine years ago, Ray and one of his neighbors decided to start a photography club. They discovered dozens of other residents who share their interest in taking pictures. 

Learning from each other

The group meets every other week to share their photos and provide constructive feedback on one another’s work. To provide inspiration and focus for their photography, the group selects a theme for each meeting, and members present a series of six photos based on their interpretation of that theme. 

“The theme yesterday was pairs, meaning two of a kind, and a few of us actually did a pair of pears,” Ray says. “We always have a theme for the seasons, and another that we did was storytelling, so people presented pictures in a row all on the same subject, or they showed a series building up to a story.”

For the second half of each meeting, the club members take turns presenting a longer photo series. For instance, one member did a travelogue of her recent trip to Costa Rica. Others have done presentations of specialized photography, such as pictures taken underwater. One of Ray’s past presentations focused on the architecture of art galleries. 

Ray says the primary focus of Linden Ponds’ photography club is on photography as an art form. But they do get into some of the technical aspects of taking photos during their critiques of one another’s work—which ultimately helps each member become a better photographer. 

“We like to be kind, but we might say, ‘The picture would have been improved by straightening the horizon or cropping out that distracting thing on the right-hand side,’ or ‘If you took it at a different angle, how would that have changed it?’” Ray says. 

Art on display

The members of the club have varying levels of experience. Some are novices who have primarily taken pictures during their travels, and others have actually exhibited their work in shows. 

Regardless of their experience, all club members have the opportunity to display their work at Linden Ponds. The club puts on an annual photography show in Linden Ponds’ on-site art gallery. Additionally, the resident photographers are periodically asked to display their photos in other areas on campus. 

“At the moment, there are a couple of photos of mine that are up in our café,” Ray says.

While most of the Linden Ponds photographers began taking pictures when cameras required film and used manual focus lenses, at this point they all use digital cameras. Some shoot with elaborate digital cameras, while others use foolproof devices they jokingly call “PHD cameras,” which Ray says stands for “push here, dummy.” 

Fortunately, technology has advanced so far that even small, simple cameras these days can capture striking images.