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Every now and again you cross paths with a stranger, and from that collision of orbits something unexpected occurs.

It happened to me some months back when photographer Ray Ketcham contacted me via email and tentatively enquired whether I’d be interested in writing an essay to be included in a forthcoming book he was working on. Ray apologized that as this was being done on what was effectively a non-existent budget there would not be much in the way of payment, but maybe I’d be interested in it anyway. He also provided some background information and a few of the portraits he’d be featuring.

I looked. I read. I jumped! Yes of course I’d have a go! Payment? Not interested at all. *

The result of Ray’s labour will soon be publicly exhibited, and the associated book has gone to press and will be ‘out there’ shortly. I kid you not, the images are powerful and moving. It is an insightful, lovingly crafted and unflinchingly honest portrayal of a place, The Boiler Room in Port Townsend, WA.

Well, let me clarify, it’s not as much about the place, as the people who inhabit the space it represents, and the community they have created around themselves.

As well as being a professional photographer for 40 years I worked simultaneously as a professional Social Worker for 23 of those years, and bringing this breadth of experience to bear on Ray’s work was immensely rewarding. Ray’s been in the game longer than me, and it shows. From a photographer’s perspective, he’s nailed it.

But from a Social Worker’s perspective? Even better! What Ray portrays is ‘social work’ in the proper sense, having an effect in the real world. The title Ray has chosen says it all, that: ‘…despite whatever else may befall me, wherever I may find myself, however others may think of me…I HAVE A NAME.’

And, it is spoken with respect.

 

 

*Disclaimer in case you missed it above: I contributed to the book! But I’ve waived any form of compensation, and will not profit from it in any way. I tell you this not to prove how munificent I am, but to underline that there are costs associated with this endeavour that must be met, and we can all help. So if you are moved to help Ray out he will be mightily grateful, and so will I.

Excerpt below from the Press Release written by Sabrina Henry, Ray’s ‘apprentice’:

There is one more thing you need to know about the books. They will be available for sale at Northwind Arts Center and through the Boiler Room. A portion of the proceeds of these sales will go back to NW and the Boiler Room. This is a good way to help support the work of both organizations especially if you are not able to attend the show.

Putting together a show is a very expensive endeavour. Working with Ray on the budget, I know there will be a deficit especially if he is not able to get any further funding, and there certainly is no guarantee that he will. After much debate, I have managed to persuade Ray to accept individual donations to help pay for the show. The donations will be made to the Boiler Room who will issue tax receipts and Ray will be able to use the funds to help pay for printing and installing the photographs. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Ray or me.

The show opens January 14, 2017 with the official Opening Reception on February 4 during Port Townsend’s monthly Art Walk. On February 5 at 1pm Ray will be doing an Art Talk at the Northwind Arts Center. I do hope we will see you there.

 

  • Sabrina Henry

    Thank you John for being a part of this work, and for sharing it here. Your essay is an important contribution to the book and we can’t wait to share it with the Boiler Room kids.

    • John MacPherson

      It’s a pleasure Sabrina. Sometimes something comes along and you have no option but to say ‘yes’ and add your shoulder to the great big push! Good luck with the exhibition and launch.

  • I’m really looking forward to reading your essay, John. It’s good of you to make a contribution to a project worthy of support. Thanks for highlighting it.

    • John MacPherson

      Thanks Gavin. Ray’s given a huge amount, his subjects too. Anything we can offer will be small in comparison, but greatly welcomed by all!

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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