Master Shots: Timothy Whelan

Bookseller and photographer Timothy Whelan interviewed by Sharon Kitchens

Praying to the Pie Gods by Jon Edwards

What were the most important things you learned as a photographer’s assistant?

To step away from a print and take a good look at it. If it is not working keep trying. If it continues to not be quite right give it time. It will come to you.

What has been your favorite photo assignment?

Shooting concerts, and sporting events. Being able to take prints to the players, and see their reactions.

Have you ever wanted to collaborate with another artist (photographer, painter, filmmaker…)?

Carleton Watkins, Muybridge, O’Sullivan, or any early photographer of the American West. How they got to places with a wagon full of glass plates, and got the remarkable images back in one piece. It was a great era in the history of photography, and a time and place I would love to have seen. Prints from these plates have a depth and clarity.

What is on your to do list?

Bike ride in the Andes. Find a photography project.

How would you describe what you do?

I am a photo book seller, and photographer. These days in that order.

What is your most personal image?

How, and why we love certain images remains a mystery to me. I am a sucker for photos of children in general, and images that can change the way we see the world. I have photos all over my shop and house. I love them all, but a image by Jon Edwards titled, Praying To The Pie Gods, has been a favorite few the last few years. I sit at the kitchen table and get to see it a lot. It evokes happy times, mysteries, spiritual things, and has a rich evocative print quality.

How did you end up owning a photography book shop in Rockport, Maine?

I came to work for the Maine Photo Workshops in 1989. It changed my life. Giving me a great education in creative photography. I fell in love with Lisa that year, and Maine. I started selling books in my house, then in a studio that was half darkroom. I moved the shop to a street near the water about 15 years ago. The rent seemed high at the time. Lisa said the worst thing that could happen was I would have a great ocean view for a year. I feel very lucky.

Is there anything else about your shop you would like to share?

I keep a book in the shop for photographers to sign who’s work I admire. It is remarkable who stops in. There is a small sign above the shop door that says, Through this door pass the worlds greatest photographers. Most photographers, or artists feel a little out of place in the communities where they live. I have always sort of felt at home in the great centers of photography, like Rochester, NY, or Carmel California, and Rockport. In the Weston Gallery, The Center For Creative Photography, The George Eastman House, or Photo Books international in London. The photo world is a small one. Its language is universal.