Tuesday, November 10, 2009


At Ft. Thomas, KY Jordan Smith leaps into the arms of
his father Jerry, upon the latter's return from the Middle
East in 2003. Photograph by Melvin Grier

I served in the USAF from 1961-65. I guess that makes me a veteran. In no shape form or fashion would I compare my time in the military with that of the men and women who put themselves in harm's way for this country. My worst experiences were the racial intolerance and bigotry that was a part of daily life at a base where I served for awhile in Alabama.

It was my good fortune to spend two years at RAF Mildenhall in England. I was a Medic, and I worked in an obstetrical hospital assisting in births, and also caring for newborns in the nursery. In my off duty time I began a pursuit of photography. Thanks to a British gentleman named Victor Cresswell, who ran the photo hobby shop, I was able to begin a hobby that for me would become a career after I left the military.

I have had assignments where I have covered the deployment of our military people. I have also been on the scene when they have returned from various theaters of duty. The sadness of departure is replaced by the joy of homecoming. I could also take advantage of my access to thank the returnees for their service. Occasionally I had to photograph the solemn ceremonies accorded those who gave their lives.November 11 we honor those who served our country.

Thank you to all veterans.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield

The leaves are turning their seasonal colors of yellow, brown, rust, and all the shades in between. Autumn is upon us. My wife loves it. I don't. I have begun my fall routine of moving perennials and gathering the last of a disappointing season of tomatoes but a bounty of hot peppers. Soon I'll be raking leaves and putting them through the chipper/shredder for the compost pile. With the exception of gardening, I'm not much for the great outdoors. Fall reminds me that the cold months will soon be here. There are no snow days when you work for a newspaper.

Many people love fall because – with the right light – it makes for pretty photographs. I don't think I was ever much of a nature photographer. I shot my share of so-called fall feature photos, but it was not something I relished. I'm not one for getting next to nature by camping. I've slept on the ground with Marines at Camp Pendleton, in a sleeping bag on a rooftop in Port Sudan, and on a dusty sneeze-inducing couch in Haiti. All of that and more for the assignment. I prefer a room with cable TV.

October also means that my team, the Cleveland Browns, are well into another season of futility. Right now, they’re 0-4. Once upon a time they had style, if not championships. Prior to a game between the Bengals and the Browns at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield made a pre-game trek across the frozen field in their fur coats and uniform pants. Style yes, but as I recall, they lost the game 21-0.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Over The Rhine Poster

During past two years I have shot, intermittently, a series of photographs used on a poster depicting various locales in  the Over The Rhine section of Cincinnati. The poster was sponsored by the Over The Rhine Foundation. This past July 10 we introduced the poster to the public at Enzo's Over The Rhine, 1106 Race Street. The poster is available there for $15 unsigned, and $30 signed.  It is also available at the Findlay Market Biergarten.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Goodbye Provident Camera

On the Road to Tuba City, AZ

So now Provident Camera here in Cincinnati is no more. Provident Camera where as a young would be professional, I would look at the cameras in their window display and dream of the next piece of equipment I might be able to afford. Provident Camera where I finally got my first Nikon and got serious about photojournalism. When I was hired at the Post I thought I would get all new cameras and bricks of Tri-X. No. I got a used Nikon and instructions to go to Provident and pick up a bulk film loader. Big let down. Provident Camera sold batteries, Provident Bank did not. A Post clerk learned that the hard way. Going to Provident to purchase enlarging paper and chemistry for a printing session in my darkroom. Watching the black and white image emerge, I never get the same thrill from my inkjet printer. From Dektol to Digital, things changed. Here's to you Provident Camera.© Melvin Grier 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dig It

Farmers - Clermont County OH Photograph by Melvin Grier

I think there is a parallel between good photography and gardening. They both require the right light and they both require patience. When we bought our home in Avondale there was a small plot of land that had been a garden in the backyard. My father was happy to have a place to grow his tomatoes and peppers. He did it the old school way using a tiller to prepare the soil for planting. My Dad got sick and couldn't use our little plot of earth anymore so after awhile I decided to try my hand at it. I rented the tiller and after getting the darn thing started I churned some soil. The next morning I woke up with what I thought was a heart attack. My upper body was one big pain. It was the tiller I concluded.I went to the Avondale Branch Library and found a book on "square foot gardening" that promoted the system of small plots of ground dedicated to one type of crop that you never stepped on and the use of compost and no tiller.Now I have seedlings going in my basement under lights and my four piles of compost are coming to life. Now I am bringing a couple of Nikon F5s back to life. I want the discipline of film.Wait until it's processed to see if that decisive moment is in focus. Forget the little monitor. Then processing the film in my darkroom and standing over a tray as that print emerges on the enlarging paper. Time controls the seedling and the photo image. Each appears in it's own time and has it's own reward.We are now an instant gratification society. Gotta have it. Gotta have it now. Even when I was on deadline at the Post and used Dektol at 1:1 it took a minute to process the film and whatever time I needed to make a print. Digital made that urgency easier to deal with.Digital is a wonderful tool for the demands placed upon news photographers to get those images and get them now. That immediacy does not necessarily render good work but it serves a purpose. My purpose in my life now is peace of mind through my photography and the serenity I find in gardening. It's a process I welcome.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Facing It

I faced up to the reality of the times I live in, and joined Facebook. I’ve made half- hearted attempts at other networking sites but soon lost interest and swore I would never try again. It seemed like a daily occurrence that I would get a request to become someone’s friend and now finally I’ll give in. ”Friend” means something special to me. It’s a cut way above acquaintance. A friend is that person you know that either through shared experiences or beliefs you can count on to come through in a pinch. I know my wife, Brenda, is my best friend. There are others that I count on and they can count on me. So now I guess the count will begin on how many friends I get through Facebook. Whoever dies with the most friends wins? It would come as no surprise to those of you who embraced Facebook some time ago that I have heard from people that I would have never guessed were part of this online society. I still have not heard from my daughter, who might be a little embarrassed that her father is venturing into this network.Be my friend...please?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes We Did

Madison Rd., Cincinnati OH, Election Day 2008

On the street where I live in Avondale, the Obama/Biden yard signs are still in place. I don't think it is from neglect or laziness but more a sense of pride and relief . When I went into the polling station I carried with me memories of riding on segregated trains as a young boy to Locust Grove GA, the small town where my parents were born and where I spent blazing hot summers playing with my many cousins. On my first memorable trip, my cousin Wymond admonished me not to drink from the "White" fountain. Later in my life as a member of the United States Air Force, stationed in Montgomery Alabama I was told by the taxi driver that the only way he could transport me and the white Airmen to the base, was if I sat on the floor of the cab, out of sight of those who might object to the integration of his vehicle. I thought about my time at Mildenhall AFB and watching black people being hosed by firefighters and attacked by police dogs as it was broadcast on the TV in the ward where I worked as a medic. I thought about all those who paid the ultimate price by dying for the right to vote and exercise the rights this country promises.Now on January 20th 2009 as Barack Hussein Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States we can embrace the challenges that await us and say again," Yes We Can".