Born in 1942, Joe Howell grew up in Nashville , Tennessee, but has lived most of his adult life in Washington, DC. His career was in the field of housing and urban development where he specialized in providing real estate development services to developers of affordable housing and seniors housing. He has written four books and has been a visiting professor and an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University. He and his wife, Embry, have two married children and four grandchildren.
I can remember the exact time I got interested in photography. In 1966 I had taken a year off from Union Theological Seminary in New York City where I was studying for a masters degree and was working as a “counselor/driver,” for Shelly’s All Stars, an after-school playgroup for kids in Manhattan. A friend of Shelly’s invited my wife, Embry, and me over for dinner one evening, and I was fascinated by the black and white photos on his wall. They were mainly of buildings and streetscapes, and each one was both beautiful and haunting.
“Where did you get these?” I asked.
“I took them myself,” he replied, smiling.
I was amazed that an ordinary person like me could take such terrific photographs. When he suggested I give it a try, I was tempted.
“But you have got to have good equipment, “ he warned and suggested I buy a single lens reflex . He used a Pentax and said he was pleased with that.
So I saved some of the money I was getting from Shelly and a few months later purchased my first SLR, a Pentax Spot-Matic, a camera I owned and loved for over ten years. Strangely enough, some of the first photos I took with that camera remain some of my best.
That was the beginning of a life-long interest in taking photographs, a passion which has now spanned almost fifty years. For the first 15 years or so, my interest was in taking black and white photos in the photojournalistic mode, mainly candid shots of people. Henri Cartier-Bresson was my hero and The Family of Man my bible. I had my own darkroom and did all my own printing. As time went on and my own children entered the world, I added color snapshots of family and took a lot of slides. Due to the demands of a career in housing consulting, more and more my “serious photography” was confined mainly to travel and vacations. I waited as long as I could before giving in to the digital revolution, finally purchasing a Canon digital SLR in the early 2000s.
While I lost a bunch of photos when my computer crashed several years ago, the ones here (and more to follow) come from a digital base of over thirty-thousand images. Many more are earlier shots in the process of being digitized. I have said numerous times that a blind person who has taken as many photographs as I have could win a Pulitzer Prize. If you shoot enough, you are bound to get something nice.
Finally, I would like to thank Embry for encouraging me to do put together this website and for her patience for putting up with all my photo snapping during vacations and travel.
“You are a good writer,” she has said, “but a whole lot better photographer.”