Interludes of history - Service before self
By Janet Watkins, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 12, 2011
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Think of time as rays of light that traverse the space around us. Each choice you make diverts the ray of light and takes it off into a new direction, leaving behind the rays of light that represent the directions not taken. You turn right, step off of the curb and get hit by a beer truck. You turn left, you later read about the other guy that stepped off of the curb and got hit by the beer truck.
Unknowingly, we all participate in the making of history. Some set out to purposely document history. The art of photography is actually the science of documenting history. But, photography is an art form, and photographers are artists. Robert A. Weinberg is such an artist, taking his craft to the highest rung of the creative ladder that is photography.
Weinberg just completed a showing of his work at the Main Library at Regis University. The ray of light that took Weinberg to this same university on Aug. 12, 1993, would allow documentation of that day to travel back. Weinberg took a picture of Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton walking across Boettcher Commons and talking on that day in 1993. That picture documented the first meeting of the Pope and the President, and went around the world in news periodicals.
His decades-long study of the Great Sand Dunes of eastern Colorado has led to a piece that has every nuance stripped away. The final product looks like a pen and ink drawing, but the masterpiece is a photographic experiment, entitled, "Great Sand Dunes National Monument."
Weinberg has photographed Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dan Rather, Cleo Parker Robinson and Itzhak Perlman. Proof that history has been documented is how the appearance of these celebrities has changed over the years, since the photos were taken.
The very best pictures in Weinberg's display were the ones taken of the people that are around us every day. One especially stunning example was the profile of a young girl, Shayna Humphries. At the exhibit, beside the photo was a bronze relief created by artist, Anne Cunningham, a tactile duplicate of the photo that allowed the sight-impaired to experience the profile within the photograph.
Another compelling photograph was the one of homeless man, Leonder Taylor, who was living in a cardboard box near Coors Field when his picture was taken. He wears about four layers of clothing and a grizzled beard covers half of his face. In his hat, with a quarter-sized hole in the brim, he looks off, into the distance, grimly. Weinberg relates that eight years after this picture was taken, he was approached by a man that identified himself as Taylor's brother. Taylor's family was looking for him, and this photograph was the only thing they had found of him; a slice in time of the documented history of a common man.
Often, the rays of light take us off into directions we had not planned to explore. In 1996, Weinberg noticed that he was losing his vision. This long-time photographer with an established studio was given the diagnosis of retinal pigment epithelial dystrophy - allowing good peripheral vision, but only blurred images when looking straight ahead. An artist in the field of photography since he was 19 years old, relying on his eyes for his craft, was told he was going blind. The measure of a person can be taken by the way they react to adversity.
Today, Weinberg works for Envision Xpress here on Buckley. "I struggled with my blindness for many years while I managed my photo business. This became increasingly difficult. In 2003 I was offered the opportunity to work at Envision Xpress as a sales associate. I began to work at our store on Buckley Air Force Base in November. The store opened that December. It has now been almost eight years in this job, which I have enjoyed," stated Weinberg.
"Envision is a not-for-profit business based out of Wichita, Kan., and has the mission to help blind and vision-impaired people become independent through employment in their base supply stores. As a civilian working in this military environment, I have learned a lot about military life. As I help prepare our soldiers to go into war zones I feel bonded to them for their sacrifices. These people have meant a great deal to me," continued Weinberg.
Head on over to Envision for the deployment gear and the office supplies, but stay a couple of extra minutes and soak in the softly-playing jazz music, take in the samples of Weinberg's photography that are proudly displayed. And, shake hands with a true patriot that previously documented interludes in history through photography, but now helps Buckley personnel make history. Service Before Self!