Bits 'n' Pieces: Photographer's book combines images with poetry

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

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Eighty-year-old Raymond J. Klein embodies the experimental spirit of photography, and he hopes to encourage others to think beyond snapshots with his book "Visions of Light."

"The basic premise is to inspire other people who are interested in photography, even those with an iPhone or digital camera. I'd like to inspire people not to just take pictures willy-nilly all around," the Vancouver resident said. Part of his book is devoted to the methodology and techniques behind his photography.

Klein began taking pictures when he was 12, after discovering his dad's Kodak folding camera, eventually selling one of his photos to the Milwaukee Journal.

"I got $10 for that picture. My dad thought 'holy smokes.' At the time, he's making $50 a week. He said you better take more pictures," Klein said.

Klein enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the photography unit in 1952. He made sure to renew his security clearance after ending his service career in 1956, landing a brief position at Cape Canaveral, taking photographs "of the rockets blasting off." He began working for the Martin Aircraft Co., documenting their planes and engineers, paying attention to the impact of light in photographs. The connection helped develop his portfolio for the advertising world in Chicago and New York.

"As a professional photographer, clients wanted you to capture the eyes (of customers). I started to do these abstract, geometric light patterns that tend to bring the eye in. It was an experiment," Klein said. "The cover of my book is three exposures of about five or six light compositions."

It wasn't until Klein moved to Vancouver that he took his photography to art galleries, showing at Second Story in Camas, becoming a member at Gallery 360, and entering a photo for an Angst Gallery exhibit that mixed images and words.

"I'm looking at all these poems; the picture that I had entered was titled 'Glistening Scintillation,' with these triangles that look like they're exploding. And some of these poems sounded like my picture," he said. Klein took his photos to the poets at Cover to Cover Books and asked for submissions. "All these poems started coming in. I said 'Jeez, I could almost put a book together.'"

Part artist exploration and part retrospective on his work, "Visions of Light"

features 37 poems and 40 images, from a 1958 photo of a newsboy to a 2005 picture of two finches that won second place in a Popular Photography and Imaging magazine contest.

"I was trying to decide how I was going to start my book, I was reading the Bible in Genesis, you know, 'Let there be light,'" Klein said. "There was one image with colored gels, this could be like this first burst of light coming out."

Klein will showcase his new book along with the contributing poets at 6 p.m. Feb. 9 at Gallery 360, 111 W. Ninth St. Copies of "Visions of Light" will be available at the gallery, or the book ($34.99) can be ordered at 877-421-7323 or http://www.winepressbooks.com.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.