I drove Miles to WIlliamsport a lot to use the dark room at the Pajama Factory. Ralph, Miles’s mentor, was always very generous with allowing Miles to use the dark room whenever he needed it. Miles would shoot rolls and rolls of black and white film and develop it in the dark room. He experimented a lot and Ralph was always encouraging him to try new things. He would help him to figure out what went right and what went wrong. The freedom to fail was really important. As a result of Ralph’s instruction– and also, I think, Ralph knowing when to just let Miles go– he learned so much and became a better photographer.
Ralph shared with me that he learned a lot from Miles, and one of them was to not be afraid to try new things and experiment. “This will work,” was one thing Miles said a lot when he was setting up some complex shoot. He made cameras out of suitcases and whole rooms. He experimented with all kinds of films and lights. It often worked. It sometimes didn’t. Ralph helped him fail, succeed, and learn. This summer, Ralph is experimenting with his own tintype photographs. I have seen some results and it is really exciting.
One evening when Miles and I were driving home, he and I saw a bear. We were about halfway home, driving on route 15 in a narrow stretch with steep embankments on either side. It was a dark shape that flashed in our headlights, scurrying quickly across the road. It was visible for just a second, but it was unmistakably a black bear. There are lots of them around here. We both saw it and said, “Whoa! Did you see that?” at the same time. It woke us up on our sleepy drive home.
I would have thought it was an illusion if Miles hadn’t seen it too. I swear we saw a bear on route 15 about two years ago, both of us.