A little less than 10 years ago, Mesa resident Jim Walls was just a man with a camera and an interest in shooting. Now, Walls has progressed to the point to make him one of the best photographers in the state, according to an Arizona photography organization.
That group, the Arizona Professional Photographers Association, recognized the United Kingdom native as the eighth-best print photographer in the state among the organization’s members. He also took first place in the competition’s commercial category, which he also won in 2012.
According to the AZPPA website, the recognition is granted by a panel of judges who evaluate photographs on the basis of print quality, originality, presentation and nine other categories. Photographs are evaluated by the judges to create an average score that is compared to the other contestants in both the open and master divisions.
The scoring process is akin to the one used to evaluate figure skaters in their competition, although Walls said the name of the photographer is not listed on the print or mentioned until the completion of the scoring process.
“I never thought I’d get it in my lifetime because a) I never thought I’d be good enough and b) I never thought I’d collect enough photos,” he said.
Walls’ reservations go back to his background in the field, which was limited to an early interest and a few years of dabbling in the practice as he grew up. Things changed though in 2005 with a performance of “The Nutcracker Suite” involving his daughter, now a dance student at Arizona State University.
The organization involved needed someone to take photos for the cover of the program, as well as photos of the individual dancers to sell. Walls’ wife, who was on the board of the organization hosting the performance, recommended her husband for the job.
“I don’t know why she said that; I didn’t have any of the equipment,” he said.
He ended up going on a bit of a spending spree to purchase the equipment needed for the shoots, as well as a few books to get an expedient primer in proper photo technique. The resulting project led to a gig as a photographer for the ballet company that lasted throughout its season.
“After the first season, I said I paid for some of it, but how am I going to pay for the rest of it?” he said.
The result was to work as a photographer on a part-time basis, which led him to join the AZPPA. Walls said he’s blossomed as a photographer since, having picked up a few tips and tricks from his cohorts in the organization.
“I’ve learned a lot about lighting and posing and composition. Those are the main elements that distinguish a portrait from a snap shot,” he said.
It’s a key element for Walls and other photographers because of the increase in people who take their own photos using phones and smaller digital devices to take photos. Walls said the quality of those photos is often not as strong as those taken by a professional, but another difference he noted is the format for those photos.
While the print photos have joined typewriters and vinyl albums as anachronistic forms of communications, Walls said there is value to having a tangible keepsake that isn’t at risk of being erased forever due to an errant key stroke. Plus, there’s a degree of warmth a person receives from having a physical copy of a photo that just doesn’t exist with a screen shot.
“I’m a big believer in passing down photos from one generation to the next.”
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