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91-year-old Capitol Hill photographer makes Seattle skyline his muse

IMG_7876“I like to work more than I like vacationing,” 91-year-old Rich Mann said, and he can provide loads of evidence to support it. However, the Capitol Hill resident also makes his lifetime of work sound like a great deal of fun.

This month, he joins three other artists to present an exhibition called A Photopolis. Running through June 29 at South Lake Union’s A/NT, A Non-Traditional Art Galley, the exhibition will feature over 70 works of artistic photography and panoramas.

A highlight of the event will be Mann’s eight-feet long panorama of a Seattle sunset, which King County selected for public display in a photo mural contest this year.

Mann’s deeper interest in photography set in when he moved to Los Angeles in a trip with high school friends that never ended. He took photography classes in the evening, joined a camera club and eventually opened his own small studio space. Over the years, he experimented with just about every form of photography.

“I tried weddings for a while, but I didn’t like doing that at all,” he said.

Mann didn’t take to the future of the medium right away.

“When digital first came in, I turned my nose up,” he said. “I thought, ‘what kind of crap is this?’ And it was crap in the beginning.”

However, when Mann moved to Seattle in the autumn of 2010 he was introduced to the Photo Center NW by his son.IMG_7835“I thought maybe I need to learn a little something about that,” he said, referring to digital photography. “It’s a challenge. Someone tells you you can’t do it, then I’m going to do it.”

By that time, Seattle had become his muse.

“I think it’s one of the best skylines I have ever seen,” he said. “It’s even better than New York.”

Living with a balcony which provides an excellent view of that skyline, Mann knew what he wanted to find.

“I’d look for sunsets,” he said, insisting that no two are alike. “You think, ‘Oh, this may be good.’ And then, bang, it’s nothing.”

He said this past March 13, at 7:29 p.m., the city and the sky provided the “ideal conditions” for the panorama he had wanted to take. It is that sunset which will feature in the A Photopolis exhibition.

His passion for photography began early in life.

“I’d heard about pinhole cameras when I was a kid, so I made one for myself,” he said.
His mother soon after bought him a brownie camera and with it came a skill he would continually develop through his life.

Growing up in Battle Creek, Michigan, Mann left home before his senior year of high school on a trip with some friends to the West Coast.

“We thought we were going right back to school,” he said. “But by the time we got to Los Angeles, I was having fun.”

There, he learned to dance.

“They brought me into the ballet,” he said of the people he met there. “They didn’t have men to life the ballerinas, so I got in there.”

From there he went on to cultivate a diverse and interesting life all over the world. His anecdotes stretch from university life to salesmanship and are never far away from the sea. While furthering his education or starting successful companies, Mann always found a way to sail.

IMG_7830He began a chartered boat company on the East Coast, helped build boats in Japan and eventually taught in several universities.

“I enjoyed going to school,” he said, and he must have with his multiple degrees, including a PhD. “I enjoyed going more than I enjoyed teaching. And then I became a professor.”

Mann never forgot his love of imaging. In his younger days he worked in a print making shop, though he said it took him a few tries to find the right job. His first print shop experience did not turn out so well.

“I was hired and fired in the same day,” he said, laughing as he recounted how little he knew about printmaking at the time. “I was faking it.”

He talks about photography in the same way he talked about his life. Both subjects were given frank, thoughtful answers. Answers he gave with a smile.

“I look at photos not as just taking pictures, but as turning them into art,” he said.
Although he retired in 2009, he still enjoys work more than vacation. Mann keeps himself busy by volunteering at the MOHAI, teaching sailing at The Center for Wooden Boat and, of course, taking pictures.

A Photopolis by Four Photographers.
L. Kennedy, Shehab Hossain, Stan Schiff, and Rich Mann.
Through June 29
A/NT, a Non-Traditional, Art Galley
2045 Westlake, at Lenora, Seattle, WA 98121

Long Shot 2014
Sunday is the Long Shot 2014 exhibition at Photo Center NW as a global weekend of photography comes to an exciting conclusion when the best shots are selected and printed for display:

On Sunday, June 22nd from 6-9pm join us for a Seattle celebration and fundraiser exhibition with DJ Riz! Every donor to PCNW goes home with a unique Long Shot photograph!

Photo Center NW is located at 900 12th Ave.

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A/NT Gallery
6 years ago

An excellent piece about one of our favorite members! Congrats, Rich!

6 years ago

This put a smile on my face. I needed that tonight. Thank you for this contribution to CHS.

Rafael Soldi
6 years ago

Rafael from Photo Center NW (PCNW) here. Rich is such an inspiration to us and everyone who walks through our labs and has had a chance to meet and work with him! His enthusiasm and interest keeps us all young! He is curious, energetic, and full of ideas… always excited to share his latest projects with us. In a world where we now officially consume more images than words, remaining fluent in photography is of extreme importance, and Rich is a great example that everyone is capable of expressing through images. PCNW understands its specially important role as stewards and educators of the language of photography—we have dozens of offerings for people from all walks of life, so I hope folks stop in for a lecture or event, take a quick workshop, or come in to us our darkrooms, digital labs, or studios!


[…] walk map and enjoy food, wine, and raffle prizes. This month we are featuring new photography by Richard Mann and new paintings by John Osgood and Aramis Hamer.  The art walk continues in the neighborhood […]


[…] art walk map and enjoy food, wine, and raffle prizes. This month we are featuring  photography by Richard Mann and new paintings by Aramis Hamer and John Osgood. The art walk continues in the neighborhood […]