Few hobbies invoke a following like that of photography.
Some lenses cost more than a used car, and it’s not uncommon to spend incredibly long stretches of time motionless, seeking little more in return than some wall art.
That level of commitment tends to breed a fair share of musings from both professionals and amateurs alike. Fortunately, Essex Jct. photographer Newt Bowker sums up his inspiration quite succinctly.
“I think it’s fun,” the 10-year-old said.
Four years after receiving his first camera — an old Olympus point-and-shoot that’s since been relegated to the basement — Newt has stacked up a pretty impressive résumé. He’s placed second in the Champlain Valley Fair’s youth category single-handedly sparked Thomas Fleming’s photography club and even earned his first professional gig, serving as the lone staffer on his parents’ cross-country trek visiting national parks.
Newt now uses a Canon Rebel, a gift from a family friend which he prefers to shoot in manual: “I mess with a lot of the settings,” he explained.
Newt’s parents say as early as 6 years old, his night-time reading list included a stack of photography magazines, and while he’s been taking photos for nearly half his life, he’s accustomed to defying expectations.
Newt was by far the youngest at a recent photography class, where a skeptical instructor quickly learned the boy was up for the challenge. And a trip to LeZot Camera in Burlington net him a prospective job offer — not bad for a fifth-grade education.
Newt specializes in still life: Flowers, skies and birds earn most of his attention. His sister, Clover, is becoming an increasingly present photo subject, however.
“He takes a bunch of pictures of her,” Newt’s mother, Abbie Bowker, said. “Some of them are really beautiful.”
“And some of them are really silly,” Newt said.
Newt’s process, like most skilled photographers, includes a delicate balance between photographer and subject. He snaps a photo, glides to the side and snaps again, understanding how different angles and lighting affect an image.
He focuses on composition, helping him create some of his best images, like a shot of a gyrfalcon he submitted to the fair this year. Maddox, a captive bird and the photo’s subject, is pictured in the left-hand corner staring off into the distance, a mural appearing more like a moody sky in the background.
His passion has sparked a similar enthusiasm from Clover, who received youth honorable mention at this year’s fair and even sold her “best shot” entry.
Bowker, an art teacher at Champlain Valley Union, said she’ll sometimes seek critiques from her two young virtuosos. They discuss what works, and sometimes more importantly, what doesn’t.
She said she’s seen a shift in Newt’s subject matter over the years. His early works involved an “around the house” aesthetic. Now, he’s venturing out into the world and seeing objects in new ways.
“That’s been really neat to watch: that growth and process of his subject matter and how he approaches it,” Bowker said.
For Newt, one of the most rewarding aspects of photography is turning everyday life into art.
“I can make something that looks really, really cool,” he said.
He also took a moment to share some quick tips with aspiring photographers. At the top of the list: be still, and take a lot of pictures.
Monday evening, he set up in front of a flower bed in his front yard, patiently suffering through a photo shoot — this time as the subject.
He was freed a few minutes later, and though the sun had already crept behind the rooftops in his Essex Jct. neighborhood, he briefly wandered about, camera in hand, searching for his next shot among endless possibilities, with time his only obstacle.
It was a school night after all.