Arts & Culture News

Dallas-Born Photographer Leonard Volk: "Grow Your Inner Critic"

Leonard Volk has always liked capturing images, and a camera has been his weapon of choice. He's spent a lifetime taking photographs, and now he's complied those images in one single collection: a book titled everyday.

The images inside are just that - moments of the everyday that somehow rise above the mundane--simply because Volk chose to photograph them.

The volume contains photographs and essays by the FAIA emeritus and retired architect that spans more than 60 years of personal photography. We caught up with Volk to find out more about his life's passion and his new book.

1. When did you first become interested in photography?

When I was a child, l used a Kodak Brownie camera to take pictures of our Chihuahuas, family events, trips, and that rarity for Dallas - snow. I got serious about photography on January 3, 1950, when I bought a Leica IIIc in Limburg, Germany.

2. What is it that drew you to this medium as opposed to painting or drawing or other artistic forms?

I was traveling in Europe. I wanted to preserve and remember sights I found significant. Layers of visible time got my attention, and things well designed. I traveled light. No other medium occurred to me. Besides, my sister was the artist. I was the musician.

3. What do you see photography as being able to do that perhaps other art forms cannot?

Photography can present in permanent form an instant, unique place or event, selected, isolated from surroundings, and sometimes rich with feeling, references, and significance.

4. What can people expect to find in your new book?

This is one man's discovery of the world through photography, and his conclusions about the process. I hope it inspires others to make their own photographs, unlike anyone else's.

5. What made you decide to create a book of your photography?

For me, making an image is only half the job. The other half is communication - sharing it with others, so that they may share my experience.

6. What was it like revisiting your work as you put this book together?

It was bittersweet reliving of the past and satisfying rediscovery that some of my work is worth sharing.

7. How much of Dallas can readers expect to find in the book?

There are many Dallas photos in the book: streetscapes, White Rock Creek, demolition of Trinity Church during construction of the Crescent, and views from our 17th floor balcony.

8. Can you tell readers a little bit about your background?

I was born in Dallas. I went to public schools, Texas Country Day (later St. Marks), Andover, Yale, and MIT. I practiced architecture in Dallas for 30 years, most of the time as a principal of Selzer Associates. I led a volunteer career working on community goals, neighborhood improvement, and affordable housing. In retirement, I continue my work on personal photography.

9. For people not particularly familiar with art photography, what might be helpful for them to know about the genre?

I suggest becoming familiar with the process, using what I have learned about it by reading my book.

10. Any words of wisdom for want to be photogs?

Photograph things you care about strongly. Because you are unique, your images will show it. Grow your inner critic. Do your best. Make your own everyday collection.

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Jenny Block