Richard Stum: Photographer


When I first met Richard Stum, I had been looking at photography submissions for the first New Era contest. I was hundreds of photos into the judging when his prints caught my eye. Stacks of photos were piled around me—many, many sunsets, little brothers and sisters, family pets. Generally these pictures were good, but in multiples of ten a single sunset has a hard time distinguishing itself. Yet Richard’s photographs stood out in this crowd. Each print had a feeling of completeness; some told stories; others simply conveyed a mood; but all of them demanded and received a reaction from me, the viewer.

Since that first contest I’ve seen many more of Richard’s pictures and talked to him personally about them. His greatest secret is that he thinks. He knows what he wants so he is able to take control of a situation and impose his point of view on it.

About photographers he says, “There are two basic types of photographers: the one who finds his scene and the one who creates his scene. I guess I am mostly the latter. I believe that behind most good photography there is an idea. I use a camera simply as a tool like a wrench or a pair of pliers. It helps me to carry out my task of completing ideas. Of course, this idea, which is just a picture in your mind, needs to be there before you snap the shutter.”

Richard enters and wins many local and national photo contests. He has first place ribbons from the state fair, and he won national Kodak-sponsored contests two years in a row; the first was three years ago when he was only sixteen.

Even with the professional recognition, Richard still thinks his greatest reward is to look at life through the viewfinder of his camera, to recognize all the ingredients of a good picture, and then to wait for that decisive moment when all the elements come together into a feeling of wholeness.

Included are a few of my favorites from Richard’s portfolio.

[photo] It is hard to know much about this man’s surroundings and station in life. His raised finger, the out-of-focus background, and the wrinkles of laughter around his eyes make us respond to him as a fellow human. Through these gestures we see the essence of his character. They also create an air of mystery. He is suspended in time and location that all may respond to his warmth.

[photo] Soft, indirect, umbrella lighting and fine-grain film help to establish the separate three-dimensional effects of each of these children. Richard obviously had a good rapport with them because they are at ease, and though posed, each one of them gives us a feeling of his own individuality and character. Yet, the three separate people make a beautifully composed family portrait.

[photo] Though this print could be better technically, it still captures a dramatic, storytelling moment.

[photo] At a family reunion Richard photographed these two uncles huddled together as if for comfort; yet each is very much alone in his own thoughts. There is a mysterious, unknown something out of the picture that is helping create that introspective mood. Once I learned that some of the young people in the family gathering were dancing to rock music on the other side of the fire, this picture became even more interesting to me.

[photo] Richard succeeded in showing the intense drama and pressure in a young rodeo cowboy’s life. He preserved that one instant when all of the elements combine to tell a complete story.

[photo] The visual elements in this photograph were manipulated to convey certain feelings about this technician. We see the form of a man involved in his own world of electricity, which to the outsider seems to be an ominous and complicated place to survive.

[photo] These hands, dramatically lit, tell us perhaps more about this person than would his face. Their owner is an old cabinetmaker and landscape painter who loves to create.

[photo] This self-portrait was shot in a railroad station, a place of bygone glory. Richard said, “I was bored and feeling a little gloomy, and this location seemed to fit my lonely mood.”

[photo] Once again Richard captured the instant when all the elements came together. This photograph also happens to be a powerful sermon by a Mormon artist.

[photo] Richard won a national Kodak contest with this photograph. “I tried to capture this feeling of solitude, but the full impact of it didn’t hit me until I got into the darkroom because a big dog was barking at me when I shot the picture,” said Richard.

[photo] Being ready and able to recognize a lucky moment before it arrived was the key to this Kodak award-winning photograph. How many people would have their camera out and ready? Richard was enjoying a float trip down the San Rafael River in Utah, but he was also ready when these wild horses appeared on the scene.

[photo] “I like to travel to take pictures because it makes it easier for me to see things in a new way,” Richard said. The open violin case ready to receive coins from appreciative passers-by wouldn’t be ironic if the musician wasn’t sitting under the bank depository.

[photo] Tonal values, line, and form all combine to make Richard’s own sea gull monument.