Who is Steve Raymer?
Before Steve Raymer was Professor Emeritus, of Indiana University’s Media School, he spent 25 years at National Geographic Magazine, first as a staff photographer and then later as its director of the news service.
Raymer is author and photographer of Somewhere West of Lonely, My Life In Pictures, a visual memoir published in April 2018 by Indiana University Press. He also is author and photographer of Redeeming Calcutta: A Portrait of India’s Colonial Capital, published in 2012 by Oxford University Press; Images of a Journey: India in Diaspora, published in 2007 by Indiana University Press; Living Faith: Inside the Muslim World of Southeast Asia, published in 2001, and St. Petersburg, a 1994 book about the imperial Russian capital. Raymer is the photographer of several additional books, including The Vietnamese Cookbook, published in 2000 and Land of The Ascending Dragon: Rediscovering Vietnam, published in 1997. Raymer is currently completing a book titled The Public House: An Enduring British Institution — a volume that documents a centuries-old establishment that is threatened by an array of social, cultural, and economic changes.
My Back Story
I pursued a graduate degree at Indiana University in the late 90’s which is when I enrolled in one of Steve’s classes. He was still getting his bearings as a newly installed professor of visual communication (after I. Will Counts’ retirement from that same university), when I popped up with an idea to photograph the Muslim community in Bloomington, Indiana.
Steve was all for it, but as I showed him my contact sheets (this was back when I still shot lots of black and white film), he would take a red grease pencil and circle the frames that “almost” passable. He was a tough teacher, and I had no illusions that as a graduate student he expected more from me. I vividly recall the note he clipped on to the final images from the semester.
In measured sentences he asked me if I had the resolve to continue working as a photographer. I still hold onto that note from him because it fuels my 20+ year obsession in photography and it is one of the reasons I publish this blog. With a few words he lit a bon fire in me to keep at it, and to always feel deep inside that there is a better and stronger photograph to create the next time I am out with my cameras.
For that alone, I owe Steve Raymer a huge debt of gratitude.
I had the pleasure of speaking with him some time ago and given that today is his birthday, I figured what more of an appropriate time than today to get this chat with him out into the world?
So here here it is:
Somewhere West of Lonely, The Book
Steve’s book, Somewhere West of Lonely, is one I recommend to all photographers. As you can expect, it is a visual feast. However, it is understanding a photographer’s backstory that makes this book that much more richer for me. And perhaps it will do for you as well.
Christmas is coming and Steve’s book will make for a wonderful gift this holiday season. I highly recommend you buy one for yourself and gift one to a photographer in your family.