There was an article about an old family friend retiring in the Boone News Republican the other day.
Bob Person is a local and the best photographer in the area and he is officially retiring.
by Blair Schilling
Bob Person’s impact on the community can be seen on walls in homes throughout Boone County.
A longtime resident of Boone and lifelong photographer, Person will be giving up ownership of his studio at 812 Story St. by the end of the year. Citing health issues, the impact of digital photography and the overall condition of the economy, Person is leaving Person Studio and Gallery after more than 20 years in downtown Boone.
While he may help a new owner make the transition into the portrait photography business, and is offering to sell the majority of his supplies and equipment along with the business name if a new owner can be found by the end of December, Person will not be stepping away from his passion altogether.
“When your hobby is also your business – I’m just not ready to hang it up yet,” Person said. “It’s going to be very difficult for me to leave.”
Regardless of whether a new owner purchases Person Studio and Gallery, Person plans to continue taking photographs as a hobby. Back problems in recent years have kept Person, 68, from photographing weddings – a significant source of revenue for the business. Person also noted the closings of two photography studios in Ames as an indication of a shift in the industry with more individuals shooting their own pictures using digital cameras and fewer seeking professional photographers to capture important moments in their lives.
Person said he has taken pleasure in his job as well as his role in the Boone community.
“I really enjoyed my time down here and God blesses us in many ways. And for me, he found this neat place to enjoy my life,” Person said.
For Person, a 1969 graduate of the University of Iowa, photography has always been about more than simply clicking the shutter on his camera.
“Photography is more than just a snap to me because of what your mind can bring to it,” Person said. “It’s like a magic trick.”
Person, who majored in photojournalism at Iowa, said art classes he took at the university helped shape his approach to photography.
“In the art department they would say, as they were critiquing photographs, ‘How do you feel, Bob, as you look at that?'” Person said. “It was the first time I had associated feelings with photographs.”
While in Iowa City, Person worked at the student-newspaper The Daily Iowan as well as The Iowa City Press-Citizen. He covered protests and clashes between student demonstrators and the National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War. A collage of photographs Person took during a visit to the University of Iowa by Muhammad Ali sits along a wall in Person Studio and Gallery.
After moving to Boone in 1970, Person worked at The Boone News-Republican for three years as the staff photographer. He then taught photography and journalism at the DMACC-Boone Campus for 29 years and served as the advisor for the yearbook and student newspaper.
Person, who got his first camera at the age of 10 while traveling with his parents aboard a military ship headed to Europe, said he did not envision becoming a portrait photographer during his younger years.
“As I started out in this at the University of Iowa, I realized I wanted to be a photographer – I thought for a newspaper or magazine. That’s what I prepared myself for,” Person said. “I didn’t prepare myself for portrait photography because portrait photography was boring to me being that everybody looked so formal and stiff in front of the camera.”
Person said he found his calling for studio photography by taking atypical photos of seemingly routine events as well as capturing the emotion of the subjects in front of his lens.
“All I need is a fraction of a second for them to forget that they’re facing a camera,” Person said.
Along with his education, Person also credits his family with assisting his success as a photographer. Person fondly recalls his father helping him develop his first photograph using a darkroom kit from Sears, Roebuck and Co. He said his wife, Lisa, has provided invaluable assistance to his work through the years and Person attributes his skills in photographing children to working with his daughters, Nicole and Brooke.
“Right now, our brochures and our advertising says that ‘We specialize in children’ – which we do. Because, before I had my own kids I had no clue how to photograph kids,” Person said.
Person said the key to good photography is lighting. He said the use of shadows, direct light and indirect light can all affect the mood of a photograph.
The local photographer said he has always drawn inspiration from Bob Dylan’s song “She Belongs to Me,” which echoes themes found in both photography as well as Person’s career.
“She’s got everything she needs, she’s an artist, she don’t look back. She can take the dark out of the nighttime and paint the daytime black,” Dylan croons in the song.
“Those are words that have stuck with me,” Person said.
Bob once told me how he proposed to his wife Lisa. They were working together in a darkroom. He was exposing photo paper and then she was developing it.
He wrote on a piece of paper, “Will You Marry Me” and put it in the stack of paper that she was developing.
So she was going through the stack of paper developing pictures of whatever it was that he had photographed when she put her proposal into the developer solution.
Slowly the words: “Will You Marry Me” appeared on the blank piece of paper.
Obviously she said yes.