I hadn’t lived on the Outer Banks but a few weeks when I met Ray. He was a waiter at Seafare Restaurant when I was in the kitchen putting dirty dishes through a Hobart machine. We became good friends. He was getting his feet wet with photography, and I was also becoming immersed. That commonality solidified our relationship.
Months later we discovered our birthdays were the same day. Surely we were kindred spirits. Times were spent with photography. I delved into his collection of books, learning more about master photographers, composition and technique.
He had just built a small darkroom where with his help, I made my first color print. It didn’t turn out well, yet inspired me to set up my Beseler enlarger at home. From then on I was off and printing. His statement “I want to make photography my life’s work” is etched in my mind. At that time he was determined and couldn’t have been more than 24 years old.
Over the years, we collaborated, commiserated and at times competed for art shows and publications. Always friends, we both explored and consumed the nature around us. His work ethic was energizing for me to continue photography even though at times, things seemed tough.
Over decades, Ray produced an extraordinary body of work, and he loved it. I will truly miss him and his influence on what I do. Mostly though I’ll miss the little things, like his occasionally dropping by my studio announcing, “Mike, let me take you to lunch, my treat.” That would mean a ride to Lisa’s Pizza and Ray ordering Chicken Parmesan.
I’ll miss meeting with him at another favorite place, Cape Point, where on more than one occasion we toasted each other with a rum and coke, waiting for the magical light of a setting sun.
Our friendship was perhaps the longest, most endearing of my life. If it hadn’t been for Ray, there’s no telling where I’d be, just not shoving dishes through a Hobart.