For 10 years, I've been a photographer. Photography is a passion, for sure, and the camera has become a part of me. It may be a cliché, but that's only because it's so true. With a camera in front of my face, it is somehow easier to see things. I feel less exposed, like a safely obscured observer. Without that small single-lens protection, things can feel too real, too intense. Sometimes we all need a little intensity, but sometimes we need that shutter of separation.
That separation is what seems to have gotten a young William Coleman through two years as a medic close to the action in Italy during World War II. From 1943 to 1945, Coleman shot and developed more than 1,000 negatives. Shot and developed. But never printed. Without photographic paper available, Coleman snapped his Leica, Rolleiflex and Kodak Ektra cameras and processed the film, with the assumption that what would eventually appear on paper was the image/incident he had just witnessed. After a career in optometry, grandchildren and suffering a stroke, Coleman is now 85 years old and a photography student at Tarrant County College. Now, for the first time, he is seeing the images he froze in time nearly 60 years ago.
His fellow students are awestruck, according to Mark Penland of the campus' Photographic Study Center, amazed that he's seeing his past anew. Although Coleman has quickly accumulated enough prints to establish a showing with Italy 1943-1945: Photographs by William Coleman, he has much more material that awaits viewing by the public...and himself. Talking about Coleman and his participation in the class, Penland says something that every photographer and artist longs to hear: We are all richer from his experience, his commitment and his vision.
The Photographic Study Center at Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, 828 Harwood Road in Hurst, hosts Italy 1943-1945: Photographs by William Coleman through December 8 in College Hall. The exhibit is free. Call 817-515-6571.
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