Friday, February 1, 2019

Meeting Mary Randlett

Mary Randlett died last week at the age of 94.  Her passion was landscape photography -- done with a 35mm camera in defiance of conventional wisdom about landscapes.  Her modestly-sized prints, 16x20 or smaller, were very nice indeed.  My favorites of her work, however, are portraits.  She did portraits of artists, writers, art administrators, curators ... for decades, largely for the Seattle PI.  Dozens of portraits, hundreds of portraits.  Most of her portraits are casual and all are in available light. She was friends with nearly every heavyweight in the Northwest art scene.

Her reputation was that of a kind of Imogen Cunningham "I don't put up with much." person who did her own thing and wore comfortable shoes.

She continued to work in her darkroom nearly every day until a couple of years ago.

While I heard her speak a couple of times later, I had the pleasure of meeting her only once -- at the time of her wonderful show at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2007.  She was scheduled to give a talk about the show on, I believe, a Saturday afternoon.  Always unsure of traffic, I got there about an hour before the talk was due to begin.  Pulling into the nearly-empty parking area behind the museum I saw an older woman getting out of her car and pulling a portfolio box out of the back seat.

Suspecting the best I went over to her and asked if, by chance, she was ... and offered to carry her portfolio box into the museum.  With an obvious "I'm perfectly capable of carrying it but since you offered." attitude she handed me the portfolio box and we walked in together.  We had a friendly conversation about scouting locations, care and feeding of portrait subjects, film, the craft of printing, the upcoming show -- for about 15 minutes until TAM's curator grabbed her to begin getting ready for the talk. 

Another hero gone.

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