Local artist ‘surprised’ by success of his abstract photography pieces

Robert Buck of Fort Plain points out one of his photos, “Wired,” which he said was a shot of a bunch of “junk” on a table. His work is on display during three solo art shows through May 9 at Arkell Museum and Canajoharie Library, 2 Erie Bvld. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

CANAJOHARIE —Sometimes it pays to break the rules.

“I was always used to following the rules of photography,” said Robert Buck of Fort Plain, whose photos are on display with two other artists’ work through May 9 at Arkell Museum and Canajoharie Library on Erie Boulevard.

“Breaking rules of photography” hasn’t hurt his artistry and, in fact, has helped him find his calling, he said.

For example, his “Gears and Levers” photo doesn’t show details in its darkened area, his “Rails and Ties” track photo retains the “noise” of sunlight glinting on the tracks, and his photo of sand and rocks at a Maine fishing area retains sand and rock graininess, all of which could be seen as flaws, he said.

But his success in art shows and selling photos contradicts that.

His “Birds on a Wire” won the 2016 Causon Award for Excellence in Art and Photography at the Cooperstown National Art Show. His work has been displayed at Albany Central Gallery, the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts in Little Falls, the Arts Factory of Montgomery County in Canajoharie, the Cherry Branch Gallery in Cherry Valley, and the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts in Gloversville.

His first award was at a Buck Moon Arts Festival at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown.

He studied graphic arts for two years at FMCC and would have gotten a degree if he had taken a physics course, he said.

Buck has been taking photographs all his life as a hobby, even back to the days of the Brownie and Polaroid Land cameras and darkroom developing.

He graduated in 1969 from Canajoharie High School; attended Lea College and Winona State College, both in Minnesota; and then did a stint with the Navy. He worked for the postal service while raising a family and had little time to indulge his photography hobby until retirement. He is now a real estate agent, but is free for photography.

Buck said his success in photography “really took me by surprise.”

“I was surprised that people liked what I was doing.”

Even his son, who is usually critical of his photos, said, “Wow,” on seeing a photograph, and this encouraged Buck.

“If I can move him, I must be able to move other people,” Buck said.

Although Buck believes the rules of photography are valuable, they don’t have to be followed slavishly. What’s most important is “whether you capture the spirit of the photo,” he said.

Buck said he’s not much into photographing landscapes or portraits and doesn’t have any people in the photos displayed at Arkell.

“I consider myself kind of a shy person”— feeling that photographing people on the street is “invading their space,” he said.

His photographs of inanimate objects such as an abandoned desk with papers strewn on the floor, empty railroad tracks, old gearing and levers, a staircase, and an empty street “makes me wonder what’s going on, what happened before, what’s happening after,” he said.

Essentially, his photographs are judged by what they conjured up in the feelings and thoughts of the viewers, he said.

By Kerry Minor

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