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A studio visit with photographer Terry Wild

September 23, 2012
By JOSH BROKAW - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Williamsport photographer Terry Wild has shot pages upon pages of thick Russian novels, historical tomes, pamphlets and papers. Forty-plus years of picture-taking takes up some storage space, even if you put everything online.

More than 70,000 pictures live on Wild's website,, which he runs out of his office in the Masonic building, 360 Market St., a location he's occupied since April 2011. Wild, with the help of fellow photographer Chris Cooley and administrator Camille Seeley, manages a "kabillion" galleries online, all so well-ordered that you can ask to see a 396 Chevelle and a few keystrokes later multiple red 396 Chevelle badges pop up on the screen.

This organization takes time, hours, days, weeks.

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"It's harder and harder to keep up with my files," Wild said. "It's sort of based on the Dewey Decimal system. Every picture's got a 13-digit number."

Cataloging photos is not what got Wild into taking pictures. His photography career began when he left St. Andrew's School in Delaware for an education at Lycoming College.

"I went to France for a summer and my mother gave me this little Instamatic camera," Wild said. "I got so frustrated with the thing [that] I came back and started researching photography in the library. I bought a Nikon off a classmate - Steve Smith was his name, he was the guy who was always walking around with a camera - and I started out developing film in the bathroom of my apartment."

James Meyer (who is "really the guru of the Williamsport school of jewelry," Wild said) was an art professor at Lycoming at the time. Meyer sponsored Wild's independent study program. After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1968, Wild applied to a graduate program in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. Harry Callahan, one of Wild's influences, had founded the photography program there.

"He said, 'You've got an eye - you need to get centered a little bit more," Wild said. "I was applying for graduate school, which was a little naive, since I'd never had a formal photography class."

Wild ended up getting a degree at The Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.

"They had a remarkable balance between commercial art and fine art," Wild said. "When I was done (in L.A.), I had a wife and a child, so we said, 'Let's go back to Williamsport and see what I can get going there.' There was no one here doing a commercial career at the time - like catalogs, brochures, annual reports. Companies tended to be getting people out of Philadelphia, your bigger cities, and I could offer comparable service for less money."

Wild returned to Williamsport and founded a studio in a converted barn on Morgan Valley Road, while teaching in Lycoming's fledgling photography program for eight years. Wild Studio is now a a shop employing five people full-time, and has been taken over by Wild's protege Mark Anderman, who joined up as an intern out of Lycoming in 1978.

"As (the studio) developed, Mark became the studio guru - he's got much more patience for product photography than I ever had," Wild said. "We worked with Shop Vac, C.A. Reed, Geisinger; Woolrich is the big client now. There was no one really doing that kind of work at the time. It was nice to transfer the business to someone who started with me."

Wild is now working toward regaining the artistic freedom that comes before the bills need paid.

"I'm essentially a freelancer, in the real sense - I take a picture beforehand and hope I can sell it," he said. "I just want to shoot what I want to shoot and get back to more fine art stuff and still pay the bills."

Wild founded the Eagles Mere Art Gallery in 2005 and still works with that group.

"It's a nice outlet in terms of fine arts activity, bringing together artists from the area," he said. "Everyone mans the gallery during the offseasons."

Wild goes back and forth on the question of technology in his work.

"I'm not a manipulator to much of a degree; a photograph is a photograph to me, not a painting, not a graphic," he said. "But in recent years, I've become more and more interested in compositing as a means of expressing an idea."

A couple of recent compositions that are displayed in the hall at 360 Market St. include a shot of the Knoebel's Carousel - a "failure" Wild said, since the picture was supposed to run several feet long and show the whole 'length' of the carousel - and a picture of Bowman Field centered on a batter in the on-deck circle.

"People say, 'Why don't you just use a wide lens for something like (the Bowman picture),' " Wild said. "That's five exposures at high-density resolution and I blended them all together - just shooting really wide wouldn't get the same feeling of closeness."

Wild's subject matter is everywhere. He cites Robert Frank's seminal, Kerouac-introduced book "The Americans" as an early influence; he says the late '50s book "was street shooting."

"I always want to particularly emphasize the things that unify us as Americans," he said. "Barns, I have a lot of barns. I really enjoy the central Pennsylvania rural lifestyle. Travel, agriculture - I love shooting people. Manipulated landscapes are a focus for me, the new topographics, landscape as its changed by the hand of man."

The work doesn't stop.

"A day doesn't go by where I don't take a picture," Wild said.



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