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Meet Tom Forker

When Tom Forker left for Penn State University in the fall of 1961, his mother left him with a parting gift that would ignite a lifelong artistic hobby: a Kodak Duaflex. 


Tom began taking pictures of what typically stands as a revolving door in a university-esque world. His roommate, friends, girlfriend, and the campus served as subjects for the fledgling photographer. Tom never thought that, while nearing the age of 80, that he would still look back at those photos with fondness. 


“Basically, the lure of photography is trying to capture the world around you so that you can look at it again,” Forker said. “I think when you start, you don’t really necessarily have the idea that you’re going to be looking at it in the future. At least, not far in the future.” 


After graduation, Tom journeyed to meet his mother in San Francisco, where she relocated when he started college. It just so happened that San Francisco served as the epitome of the hippie movement in 1965. Forker then purchased a 35 millimeter film camera and went off to document what he described as “something very colorful and unusual.” 


Tom would develop his own photos in Golden Gate Park at a developing lab intended for the public’s use. The photographer remembered the lab as a perfect resource that enabled him to believe that photography is more than simply taking pictures because the process was so immediate, he said. For instance, Forker could attend a peace march and have prints within the next few days. 


By the late 1960s, Tom had moved on from San Francisco and traveled to the mountains of Washington State’s Methow Valley, to live as what he described as “a wildlife hippie instead of a city hippie.” A change in scenery calls for a change in photography, and Tom discovered his adoration for wildlife photography. 

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To this day, Tom hikes into the North Cascade Mountain Range near his home, capturing nature’s finest moments on camera. From flora and fauna to bubbling brooks, the photographer reins in a wide array of photos that are often used in newspaper ads and on the website for the local lodging company, Methow Reservations. Tom’s work is also available for sale at the Purple Sage Gallery. 


There is a stark contrariness between documenting urban and rural life, one that Forker deeply acknowledges. In the city, he did what is considered borderline journalism, securing a moment ripe with politics and the sociality of the human condition. Natural photography, however, symbolizes the contrary. 


“While each subject is fleeting and possibly a one time event, there’s a sense that this is — whatever it is you’re photographing — is part of a process that has gone on for, in some cases, millions of years,” he said. 


Now with a digital camera in hand, Forker explained that he can apply intense scrutiny on the image’s subjects. Nature’s displays are spectacular but some only last a mere few seconds, like an Osprey diving into a river and flying away. 


“And then I bring those photos home and the camera, depending on my settings, can be shooting four or five, even 10 frames per second,” Forker said. “So I can look at that thing I just saw flash by and see it in detail on the big screen.” 


Forker continues to walk on the mountain trails as a photographer, someone who is looking for what can only be seen through a camera. 


“You know I’m just someone who has an opportunity to see the world in a way that not everyone gets to see if they don’t carry an expensive camera all the time,” he said.

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