Face time — Photographer Don Busath’s 60 years behind the lens showcased in new exhibit
Throughout his career, Busath was concerned with both the technical side and the artistry of portraits.
For example, he preferred to use hot incandescent lights, rather than "the blinking of flash. That earned me a national nickname of 'Hot Lights.' " He also studied in New Jersey with Joseph Zeltsman, who taught him about the five classic poses of portraits: front view, 1/3- and 2/3-views and both profiles. "Few people have the ideal look in all five, so you have to find which is the best."
You also want an expression that people want to look at for 40 years, he says, so he tended "to go for a more sedate look rather than a yucky smile."
Busath has taken thousands of wedding and family portraits, as well as those of "the movers and shakers." The "Honors in the Arts" was a "big thing" for him, and one that happened quite serendipitously. He had joined the Chamber of Commerce and was asked to serve on the arts committee. Just before a meeting when they were supposed to come with ideas for projects, Busath had taken a portrait of Mormon Tabernacle Choir conductor and former classmate Jerold Ottley. "I decided to take that to show the committee; and Pat Davis, who was there from the Promised Valley Playhouse, thought we should do a whole series featuring local artists. So that's how that came about."
Over the years, Busath has acquired most of the professional degrees available in photography, including Professional Photographer of America Master of Photography, Photographic Craftsman, Certified Professional, Excellence in Imaging. Some of his prints are also in the permanent collection of the Photographic Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. He is one of six photographers worldwide to have earned the fellowship degrees of both the American Society of Photographers and the British Institute of Photography.
In the early years, he took 12 shots to a roll of film. "But I actually liked having to stop and change film, especially when taking group shots," he says. "They would relax, and I could see their natural body movements and then try to incorporate them into the next shots."
His advice for anyone who is having a portrait shot is, "you do better to turn it over to the artist. You can't see through his lens."
He has learned to use the light and became a precise technician, but he has never sacrificed artistry. As dancer Shirley Ririe told him: "Many of your portraits are of my friends, and I get a tear in my eye when I see them so 'living' and 'working' and 'being' what they truly are. You have greatness in that ability."
Since retiring from the studio, Busath and his wife have served an LDS mission in California. And he is now back to taking pictures just for the fun of it. One project that intrigues him is "the metamorphosis that Salt Lake City is experiencing." In 1990, he did a book called "Salt Lake City in a Different Light." But now, there have been so many changes, "I've started taking some 'progress shots.' I don't know where it will go, but it's neat to see how things are changing."
He has always loved this city, he says. "My great-great-great-grandfather Amasa Lyman stood with Brigham Young when the first corn was planted. Donna's great-great-great-grandfather Willard Richards was also there."
For Busath, too, "this was the right place to be. I've been very blessed." Photography enabled him to "put bread on the table. But I soon learned that if you're in it for the bread, you're in the wrong place."
He's never lost his passion for or his appreciation of the medium. A well-taken photograph can still give him goose bumps. He still loves to look beneath the surface to the heart of the subject. He still believes in the magic, much as he did when he was a young boy gazing on his grandfather's portrait.
If you go ...
What: Don Busath: Sixty Years of Portraiture
Where: Springville Museum of Art, 126 E. 400 South, Springville
: through Jan. 30; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., to 9 p.m. on Wednesday; Sunday, 3-6 p.m.
Info: www.sma.nebo.edu or 801-489-2727
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