In the mid-1970s, a Marion-based public accountant, amateur photographer and collector of art prints named Dayne Bonta took a fateful trip out West with his wife to buy prints from a nature photographer of some repute.
This photographer did more than sell Bonta some of his work. He encouraged Bonta to spend more time taking his own photographs.
Ansel Adams was not a man whose guidance on photographical matters was to be taken lightly.
Posters of his work still grace the walls of many of the nation’s dorm rooms, reminding students of the big, beautiful world that awaits them after graduation.
Four decades have passed since Bonta took Adams’ advice to heart and now a show of his work can be seen at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.
The Quiet Light: Photography of Dayne Bonta is open through Aug. 5.
Bonta, 84, said Adams offered to critique his work and told him he really should pay additional visits to other prominent photographers such as Paul Caponigro and Brett Weston.
He told me when I left, If you have any problems, give me a ring. I’d be glad to help ya,’ Bonta recalls. He meant it. When I first started to send him some images, he’d critique them – he’d send me back a letter with a critique. He was a wonderful man. There aren’t many people of his stature who would do that.
Bonta’s true photographic muse turned out to be Caponigro, however.
He was living in Santa Fe at the time, Bonta says of his first visit with Caponigro. I’ll never forget it: I knocked on the door of this little place he was renting. He said, Are you Dayne Bonta? Come on in.’ The world I walked into had three pieces of furniture in it. There was a stove, a grand piano, a chair and a bed.
He sat down at the piano and started playing Chopin, Bonta says.
The pair forged a lifelong friendship and artistic camaraderie, Bonta says.
Ansel (Adams) was a really outgoing person, he says. Paul was, kind of an opposite personality from Ansel. Paul said the reason he chose Minor White as his mentor was because Minor was more spiritual. Paul was a very spiritual person.
That kind of rubbed off on me, Bonta says. I liked Paul, and I liked that approach.
The approach to which Bonta refers is not easy to explain, he says.
Paul always said Minor taught him that inanimate objects like rocks and foliage had a life of their own, he says. They were living things. That’s why he photographed them.
It’s the opposite way from someone who photographs just to make pretty pictures, he says. I photograph now because I have to. Something inside me tells me to photograph. I guess that’s what’s spiritual about it – rather than just going out and taking pictures to look at things. I don’t do that. When I stop to photograph, something inside of me tells me to.
Unlike Adams, who would wait for hours in one position in a far-flung locale for all meteorological elements to come together in some perfect visualized harmony, Bonta has largely pursued regional subject matter using a more casual approach.
Paul said, Photograph what you know and what you love,’ he says. So that’s why I have pretty much stayed around Indiana.