“See the world through Lumpy’s Eyes,” says the invitation to Ocean Shores photographer Steve Poole’s web portfolio Lumpy’s Photography. Follow the link and you will see familiar coastal sights in a breathtakingly beautiful new way. Lumpy bestows exquisite care to each piece from raw photograph to the perfect frame.
Born in California and raised in Nevada, Steve Poole studied bovine genetics intending to become a veterinarian. Instead, he ended up working as a mountain guide in the Sierras. On his long wilderness trips, he began to take photos. He shot with a cheap 35 mm camera, but soon found that he was a perfectionist when it came to photography. He needed training and better equipment.
“I took classes,” he says. “But then life got in the way.”
His photography was placed on the backburner until 10 years ago when he took underwater photos on a trip. He was just taking the pictures for his own pleasure, but they were so stunning that his wife Kathy suggested marketing them. “I was called Lumpy because I had this leave-it-to-beaver attitude to life,” he explains. “We decided to use the name for my business.”
The Nevada Museum of Art saw one of Poole’s photos titled “Black Rock Desert” and was impressed. They offered to exhibit his work. “There I was at a fancy art show reception. I felt quite out of place,” he remembers. “But I received positive feedback and made some high-end sales.”
The Pooles have since moved to Ocean Shores where Steve works as a contractor salesman for Arrow Lumber. They are building a house that will include a studio with a dark room. He feels like a kid in a candy shop in the new place. There is space for all his equipment, which has come a long way from his 35 mm camera. Poole admires the work of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. He has acquired two large format cameras from the 1950s, the kind Adams used to create his famous black and white photographs. The negatives are enormous, 11 x 14 inches and 6 x 7 inches respectively and can be enlarged to great size. Poole loves to develop his own negatives in his darkroom, but he also shoots digital.
The Washington Coast is a new environment for Poole’s photography. He loves black and white, the neat contrast of light when the sun sets on the trees. He lugs his 80-pound camera into the forest to capture this display of nature. He is currently working on a series of trees: redwoods, cedar, birch. His favorite views are abstract focusing on shapes and contrast to such a degree that the object becomes almost unidentifiable. His shoots bring out the patterns of wood, seaweed, driftwood and the moss-covered old pilings so common in the waters of the Harbor. His favorite is a black and white photograph of a stand of birch trees, a horizontal section focused on one trunk in the foreground. It has two knots that look like eyes wonderfully complementing the theme of seeing the world through Lumpy’s eyes.
There are two remarkable sides to Steve Poole: his art and his attitude. He is true to his art and doesn’t want to be a slave to his photography business. As a member of the North Beach Artists Guild, he exhibits his work in the Gallery of Ocean Shores. Sales of his not-so-popular abstract work have zoomed to 50 percent, which makes him very happy. “I want people to like what I like best because that is who I am,” he explains.
It is easy to duplicate photographs, but he limits prints to about 20, or only one per size, no mass production. Some of his large format pieces are one-of-a-kind and he has destroyed the negative. He never sells a photo without a frame and his frames are museum quality. A Lumpy photograph stands for quality and uniqueness.
On the other hand, Poole wants his work to be affordable for the middle classes. He limits his prices to under $300, more for commissions. “I am one of the masses. I want ordinary people to be able to buy my work,” he insists. He is happy that his livelihood does not depend on his sales. Equipment and framing is expensive and he is content for the photography business to pay for itself.
Wife Kathy is the driving and containing force behind the business. She encourages her husband, but makes sure he does not get too caught up in time-consuming events. The marketing on the website and Facebook page is savvy or perhaps truly natural to Steve and Kathy with just the right tone contrasting the name of Lumpy with sophistication – just like the man.
And then, in the end, the bombshell hits. “I am colorblind,” he discloses. “This is why I love black and white photography. I do take color photos and sometimes my wife will look at one and tell me, this doesn’t work.” Sometimes it’s good to see the world through Kathy’s eyes.