Like many young photographers, I aspired to photograph for National Geographic. The idea of traveling around the world to exotic places and being paid to do what you love would have been a dream come true. It’s not surprising that one of the photographers that continue to influence my work even to this very day is Sam Abell. Learning photography at an early age from his father, Sam Abell never lost his passion for photography. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, he immediately went to work for National Geographic. It was in 2012 that I got a chance to hear Sam Abell speak. Known for not ever wanting to be in the spotlight, he requested the room be completely dark. The only light illuminating him was the light coming from his laptop. Slowly an image appeared on the screen. It was a photograph he took of his father, on a train platform, leaving for work. The second image was one of himself, just a few years out of college, with a young woman by the name of Denise Myers, who he met on a hiking trip and would later become his life-long partner and wife for many years. This is indicative of Sam Abell’s nature as a humble, introspective, wise, philosophical, contemplative, insightful, sensitive and compassionate, son, husband, photographer, and teacher.
In 1990, Stay This Moment, Sam Abell’s solo exhibit was on display at the International Center of Photography. Stay This Moment distilled down in three words, the essence of Sam Abell’s work - the power of the quiet photograph. His photographs are carefully composed, utilizing foreground, middle ground and distant background, he layers his compositions with complexity while maintaining a compelling quietness by incorporating light, space and moment into each of his photographs. Through his work, we see a master of composition at work, however, perhaps what gives Sam Abell’s photographs life is his sensitive and insightful understanding of his subject. Whether it is an older gentleman preparing ceremonial tea in Japan or an isolated frozen road in Newfoundland that stretches into an infinite distance, they are compelling because they profoundly show life, and reflect upon who we are as human beings and the world in which we live.