Andre Cantelmo Photography
Gus Cantelmo 1913 - 2004
October 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of my Dad's birth. Gus Cantelmo was born in 1913, the same year the Internal Revenue Service began collecting income tax. We never let him forget that little tidbit either. He loved life, music, photography, fixing things, and most of all his family and friends. There were times that I wondered if there were anyone he didn't know. Everywhere we went we bumped into someone and a conversation resulted.
Dad introduced me to Photographic Art at a very early age. As soon as I was old enough to follow directions, I found myself next to him in the darkroom. My first job was to agitate the trays of chemicals when he placed the exposed paper into solution. I am now 68 years old and never remember my Dad being without a camera or darkroom. I learned to love the aroma of fixer and never thought of it as an unpleasant smell. As the years passed and I grew, I assumed more responsibility, and so began the many decades we'd share photography together.
Dad's technique of choice was Black and White Photography. He was dedicated to a school of work known as American Pictorialism and admired Adolf Fassbender (1884-1980) who was one of its leading champions in those days. I remember Dad working with paper negatives, charcoal, chemical bleaching, and extensive re-touching, to get a soft painterly effect. The end result was an idealized, optimistic photograph with strong compositional design. Often he'd choose Ektalure X, one of his favorite papers to print the final version on. I remember that paper as having a slight canvas textured surface that worked to enhance the effect he was aiming for. Dad's subject of choice was the sea. He photographed many other subjects also, however could not resist the call of being next to the Ocean. He explored the Northeast Coast of the United States extensively, and loved the commercial fishing industry of Massachusetts to be more specific. Those were the days of wooden Lobster Pots and lots of hand labor. Vermont was another place he loved very much. His subjects varied from old churches, farms, Maple Syrup production, and the logging industry, all rendered in the Pictorialist style. Dad loved all phases of photography. He had a way of loosing himself in the moment, and whatever was happening right then was all there was. The same held true in the darkroom. I can recall Mom calling for him to eat dinner over and over, he'd always answer “I'll be right there”. He was very generous with his photographic knowledge, always being eager to help anyone with questions.
When I think of Dad, and I often do, the image that comes to mind instantly is one of him standing on the edge of land, facing the Atlantic Ocean, sunshine lighting his face, twin lens Rollei flex around his neck, and looking out at the horizon. I have such a photograph of him and regard it as one of my favorites. I am very grateful to him for very many things, most of all for teaching me to love life enough to stop and take a good look at things. He taught me how to see light, detail, and subtleties. In his last years, I was teaching him the finer points of digital imaging. At ninety, he was looking ahead to the future, and still excited about being alive. Oh, for just one more photographic conversation, just one more field trip, just one more session together, and just one more hug. Miss you Dad...