Everyone has a camera these days.
Whether it’s at an office party or the family Thanksgiving dinner, many people have been buttonholed by an enthusiastic traveler’s sharing a (seemingly endless) collection of photos. It doesn’t take long to realize that enthusiasm does not always equate with expertise, and while anyone can press a button, far fewer people know how to capture a moment, a memory, and an emotion.
“The challenge of being a photographer is capturing the images that I have created in my mind’s eye — capturing an emotion that connects someone with that image and draws them into it,” says Kennewick photographer John Clement, who has had a camera in his hand for more than 49 years now and counting.
“Finding those type of images takes lots of planning, prayer, and knowing your landscape locations. It’s understanding how and when the weather, the light, and the subject all work together for that moment in time, never to be repeated. There is so much to this side of the story . . . ”
He Borrowed His First Camera
Clement’s story started in 1970 at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, where he double majored in geology and geography. Needing an elective class to fill a gap in his schedule, he chose photography — although to get through the class he had to borrow a camera because he didn’t own one.
“But I was hooked,” he said. He spent five years with a church pictorial directory company in St Louis, and another five with Battelle in Tri-Cities doing lab and photography assignments. On the side, he shot landscapes and marketed his work, and in 1980, left Battelle to venture out on his own.
“I’ve been really blessed in this business by faithful clients and opportunities to try new ventures in photography,” Clement explains. “I’ve been involved in book publishing, calendars, multimedia production, and scouting movie locations for clients in California.
“I have clients all around the world, and have prints in more than 80 countries.”
Clement’s photos have garnered more than 65 regional, national, and international awards, including first place at the National Park Service’s National Natural Landmark Photo Competition. He has been published in Country Music and Northwest Travel Magazines, and one of his prints hangs in the permanent collection of the International Hall of Fame of Photography in Missouri. He installed 17 of his works as murals at the Century Link Field in Seattle, home of the Seahawks and the Sounders, and an additional 17 as 4×8 glass panels at the recently remodeled Pasco Airport. Last year he completed a major project at the Othello Medical Clinic where nearly 200 images — ranging in size from 24 inches to 35 feet — decorate the facilities.
Traveling with Family and Camera
For 20 years, Clement operated a gallery at the Columbia Center Mall in Kennewick, but closed it in 2005 so that he could devote more time to traveling with his wife, Sharon, and capturing landscapes on camera from different locations. The past several years, he has traveled regularly to the Midwest with his daughter, Colleen, for storm chasing. (“My interest is in the big skies and the landscape.”) Other travels have taken him to Russia, China, continental Europe and the British Isles, “with more to come, Lord willing.”
“I have thousands of stories — some funny, some serious, and some scary,” Clement says. “When you do what I do, you can get into some interesting situations, places, and crazy scary weather.” One major memory is the time he lugged his 42 pounds of camera equipment onto a four-foot wide, mid-range ledge at Palouse Falls. Without warning, a baseball-sized rock hurtled from above, barely missing him.
“Quit throwing rocks! There are people below you!” Clement shouted to the voices overhead. The next voice he heard was that of an upset mother yelling, “I told you not to throw rocks, didn’t I?” There was a slap, a wail, and then silence. But at least there were no more rocks. Clement stayed on the ledge, unmolested from above, for four hours, waiting until the light and the sky were just the way he wanted.
Camera and the Artist’s Eye
“This world is a wonderful place of color, textures, lines, and patterns,” Clement says. “When some or all of these elements come together in the right light, they can stir the emotions to stop and think.”
It’s his job, he says, to capture that moment on camera, and translate it visually into an image that speaks to the heart as well as the eye.
“I believe God has given each one of us a gift to share with others,” Clement says.
“My gift is seeing his wonderful creation in a unique way that communicates His love for all of us — through what He has created for us to see.”
John Clement is the Featured Art Event from Monday, April 8through Saturday, May 4at Wenaha Gallery. He will be at the gallery Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a special Spring Art Show, where he will be joined by Milton-Freewater steel sculptor Anne Behlau and Dayton jewelry and nostalgia journal artist Dawn Moriarty.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail email@example.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.