Reporters note: Through the power of social networking, and only through the power of social networking, is this story made possible. After searching the well-known network, Twitter, for hits related to 'Boonville, MO,' this reporter found a picture that piqued his interest. Considering this, the feature that follows proves that the world is becoming smaller with each passing month.
Working through moderate color-blindness, R E Casper, graduate of Illinois' Shawnee College and future son-in-law to Boonville's Bob and Kathleen Conway, manages to capture some remarkable moments in time – frozen for his children and grandchildren – frozen, perhaps, for the children and grandchildren of Boonville to one day see. Though a southern Illinois native, Casper came of age in Pulaski County, soaking up the energy of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meeting. He is no stranger to large, wide-stretched bodies of water that flow quickly.
"My father is a towboat captain and growing up in the area gave me an appreciation of the beauty of a historic river town. That's what made Boonville so interesting for me," he said.
His degree in fine arts led him to Columbia some 6 years ago, where his attachment to Boonville quickly became concrete in ways other than the steadfastness of a flowing river. There, Casper met his fiance, Jane, daughter of Boonville. Love, certainly, had entered the picture, figuratively and literally. With it, though, came the opportunity for a 25-minute drive to open and close a shutter in our city of a few thousand.
"The town offers itself very well to an artists lens. It's so very picturesque with the long-stretching bridge over the Missouri, with the historic architecture, beautiful homes along the riverfront and even the old jail house," said Casper.
Like sand through the hourglass, so they say. In 2009, he and the young Conway relocated to central-Chicago, remaining for 3 years. R E was already enthusiastic about photography, but Chicago opened up creative doors that other areas had not. There, he honed his craft. He was already a talented artist, but the windy city let his talents become specified. Point and shoot.
"I've been involved in fine arts through traditional mediums for most of my life – oil, graphite and ink. Photography is a medium I find satisfying and flexible. It allows for personal expression and documentation of the world the way I see it," he said.
Casper cites some of the greats as older inspirations. Trey Ratcliff, Jan Maisel, Olivier Du Tre and Colby Brown are all on his list. Landscaping aside, however, big-city life lassoed him into street and urban photography, a very clear and understandable natural course of events. How many mountains can you see from the top of the Sears Tower? Bruce Gilden, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Atget and W. Eugene Smith are his current favorites.
R E's color-blindness lends itself to truly unique imagery – whereas most would consider it a hindrance, the capturer-of-moments has focused his energies on image-types that his eyes will allow him to excel in – high contrast black and white or monotones.
"I focus on the form, line and texture of a scene as it unfolds in front of me," Casper said.
Capturing moments of humans in their natural "habitat," as he refers to it, allows for the truest of forms to be garnered on film. Casper's habitiat-appropriate work finds people on their way to and from work and lunch – mundane moments for some, but inspiring for an artist.
"It's not always easy and takes some nerve, as people are generally very reserved and hesitant to a stranger taking their picture without warning. I see the world being full of wonder, beauty, danger and an interesting array of endless characters. Now, I find myself pounding the pavement as often as possible in search of the perfect moment," he said.
In June of this year, Casper and company packed up shop after selling all that was sellable and jumped blindly towards the west coast. California, like a magnet, beamed R E, Jane and their K-9 up and over. Through this change in venue and drastic change in temperature, Casper's current calling unveiled itself to the photographer.
"Through the move, I found the perfect opportunity to create a project to document the cross-country tour. This is where the '2000 Miles in a Vandura' came to mind," he said.
The Vandura, a conversion van, towed behind it a fully-loaded Honda Civic. Casper's parents were also part of the entourage.
"My fiancee and I ended up traveling from Chicago to southern Illinois, then we made our way to Boonville so our parents could meet for the first time in the more than 5 years that Jane and I have been together. While there I also had the opportunity to add more photos of the landscape and historic buildings to my Boonville portfolio, many of which can be found in the upcoming photobook," said Casper.
'2000 Miles in a Vandura' is an in-motion series of work that Casper is putting together to document his and Jane's travels from their hometowns to their new residence in the San Francisco Bay area – Alameda, specifically. Featured photographs will be picked from the cross-country adventure out of states like Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The photographer's website can be accessed at www.recasper.com
His facebook profile is www.facebook.com/recasperstudio