Bernard Spinelli is passionate about photography, but not necessarily his own.

When someone asked him a while back why he was passionate about his photography “I replied that I wasn’t,” Bernie said in an email interview. “I did say that I was passionate about other people’s photography.”

Bernie has been photographing since 1963 while working as a field service technician at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. “I’ve been exposed to a lot of visual input in my lifetime, which is storytelling in its truest sense and allowing one to be there and experience the moment as it happened.”

Admittedly it's trite to say a photograph is worth a thousand words, but as Bernie says, try describing a fireworks display.

“It's a shame bordering on criminal that the only historic photographic images surviving from the landing at Omaha Beach in Normandy are two, possibly, three frames of a 35 mm roll of film that Robert Capa shot while the first wave of GI’s were coming ashore. Even today words can't describe what took place there. And visually, historically all was almost lost forever except for those two or three frames that recorded history.

“That's why I'm passionate about other people’s photography,” he said.

Bernie’s first excursion into photography – starting with a 35 mm Yashica Pentamatic and a Spiratone 180 mm lens – came to an end sometime around 1969. He had graduated from graduate school at Pratt Institute and went to work designing and art directing consumer packaging for Fortune 500 companies. After a hiatus of nearly 30 years without “any serious photo taking” except for shots of corporate products, Bernie returned to photography about 10 years ago.

Asked about his artist statement, Bernie says, “I really don’t have any. I’m not a project shooter. If I'm out and about with my camera I'll probably photograph a scene or object that gets my attention and that's usually textures, light, form, tension and minimal abstractions within the object or scene. Probably, too, it's seeing and photographing something from a different perspective that I never saw before.”

Bernie won’t be categorized as a photographer: “Can't hang a label on my photography but I do shy a way from people shots. Don’t want to deal with the rejection.”

Photographers who have influenced Bernie are Bill Brandt (English street scenes from the 1930s and ‘40s), Cartier-Bresson (street scenes and portraits), David Plowden (structures), and Robert Capa (war). For Bernie, Capa’s comment that if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough “is as good as the day is long.”

Seeing life through a normal lens is what people normally see, Bernie said.

To view more of Bernie's images, visit his CoPA gallery.

Dan Patrinos

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